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Full text of "First days amongst the contrabands"

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THE LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF. 

NORTH CAROLINA 




ENDOWED BY THE 

DIALECTIC AND PHILANTHROPIC 

SOCIETIES 



E 185.93 

.ST 

B7 



M^'^v 5 ^51^ 



.^^.'V.^RSITY OF N.C. AT CHAPEL HILL 



000 



0085739 



This book is due at the WALTER R. DAVIS LIBRARY on 
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Form No 513, 
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Digitized by the Internet Archive 
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FIRST DAYS 



AMONGST 



THE) CONTRABANDS 



r- 



BT 

ELIZABETH HYDE BOTUME 






BOSTON 
LEE AND SHEPAED PUBLISHEES 

10 MILK STREET 

1893 



Copyright, 1892, by Lee and Shepard 



All Rights Reserved 



First Days amongst the Contrabands 



C. J. Fetees & Son, 

Type-Settees and Electeotypee8, 

145 High St., Boston, Mass. 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER PAGE 

I. Within the Lines 1 

II. Contraband. Origin of the Name ..... 10 

III. Trip on Government Steamer Arago .... 22 

IV. First School-days 41 

V. School-days 63 

VI. My Parish 82 

VII. Whitney School 99 

VIII. The First Winter 114 

IX. Housekeeping 128 

X. Writing Letters 143 

XL The Marriage Ceremony 167 

XII. Evacuation of Savannah 168 

XIII. Jack Flower's Straw Boat i 178 

XIV. JiMMIE 181 

XV. Disbanding the Troops 191 

XVI. Emancipation Jubilee 204 

XVII. Refugees Return Home 209 

XVIII. Storm at Sea 215 

XIX. Hard Times 225 

XX. No Longer Contrabands 234 

XXI. Thanksgiving 247 

XXII. Speculators 259 

XXIII. Reconstruction 267 

XXIV. Progress 281 



iii 

65888 



<A^ 



# 



FIRST DAYS AMONGST THE 
CONTRABANDS 



WITHIN THE LINES 

Why did I first go within the Lines ? 

This question is often asked with the addition, 
'' Tell us about it." The military movements con- 
nected with the Civil War are well known. But 
the great mass of American people know but little, 
and so think less, of that other great event, — the 
greatest in the history of the world, — the emancipa- 
tion of four million human beings held in bondage 
in the Southern States. A new race was born into 
freedom, with no preparation or provision for the 
great change. That this could be accomplished 
without disintegrating the whole federal govern- 
ment is unprecedented in history. 

A new generation has come to the front. The men 
and women who were in active life in 1860 are fast 
falling out of line. The ranks are broken. But few 
veterans can now respond to the roll-call. Let us tell 
our stories before it is too late. Wonderful strides 
have been made in the political and business world 

1 



2 FIx^ST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

since the war. No wonder people who were infants 
then, or have been born since, listen to stories of 
those stirring times, and "before the war," with sur- 
prise and incredulity. The ex-slaves are no longer 
freedmen. They are negroes. The name of con- 
traband has no significance. It is, at best, only a 
local term. In the meantime, these ex-slaves have 
doubled in number, and increased in capacity and 
intelligence a hundred-fold. 

How was Slavery regarded ? 

In 1861 Alexander H. Stevens, vice-president of 
the Southern Confederacy, said, — 

*^The prevailing ideas entertained by most of the leading states- 
men at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that 
the enslavement of the African race was in violation of the laws 
of nature ; that it was wrong in principle, — socially, morally, 
and politically. These ideas, however, were fundamentally 
wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of 
races. This is an error. It was a sand foundation; and the 
idea of a government built upon it ! When the storm came and 
the wind blew, it fell. 

**Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite 
ideas; its foundations are laid; its corner-stone rests upon the 
great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that 
slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and 
moral condition. This, our new government, is the first in the 
history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical, 
and moral truth.'* 

Jefferson Davis, president of the Southern Con- 
federacy, said in his message, April 29, 1861, — 

*^ In a moral and social condition they [the slaves] have been 
elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent, and civilized 
agricultural laborers; and supplied not only with bodily com- 



HOW WAS SLAVERY REGAHDED 3 

forts, but with careful religious instruction, under the supervision 
of a superior race. Their labor has been so directed as not only 
to allow a gradual and marked amelioration of their own condi- 
tion, but to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of the 
wilderness into cultivated lands covered with a prosperous people. 
Towns and cities have sprung into existence, and it [the country] 
rapidly increased in wealth and population under the social system 
of the South." 

While the Southern leaders were thus defending 
slavery, and the mass of Southern people were trying 
to tighten their chains, many Northerners were 
hotly declaring that slavery had nothing to do with 
the war, nor would the war touch the " divine 
institution of slavery." At the same time Free- 
dom, like the soul of John Brown, was steadily 
''marching on." 

Charles Sumner, that great champion for justice 
and humanity, said, — 

" Look at the war as you will, and you will always see slavery. 
Never were the words of the Roman orator more applicable: * No 
guilt, unless through thee; no crime without thee.' Slavery is its 
inspiration, its motive power, its end and aim, — its be all and end 
all. It is often said the war will make an end of slavery. This 
is probable; but it is surer still that the overthrow of slavery will 
at once make an end of the war. 

*' It is not necessary even, according to a familiar phrase, to carry 
the war into Africa; it will be enough if we carry Africa into 
the war, in any form, any quantity, any way." 

These extracts show the spirit of the times. The 
whole country was intensely aroused. When the 
war broke out, public opinion was like the waves of 
the ocean in a tempest, — rushing up and down, 
seething, roaring, hissing. 



4 FIRST DAYS WITH THIL CONTEABANDS 

Slavery. 

People at the North knew but little of slavery 
as it existed in the United States seventy-five or 
even fifty years ago. It was a terra incognita to 
them. When brought face to face with the slaves, 
as they were during the war, it was like the dis- 
covery of a new race. I do not mean politically. 
Everybody knows something of the politics of the 
times. History gives us the facts. What was 
known of the slaves themselves? Had they any 
individuality? Were they, as we were often told, 
only animals with certain brute force, but no capa- 
city for self-government? Or were they reasoning 
beings ? 

"I do assure you," once said a Southern woman 
to me, '' you might as well try to teach your horse 
or mule to read, as to teach these niggers. They 
canH learn." 

'' Then," said I, " will you be so kind as to tell 
me why they made stringent laws at the South 
against doing what could not he done ? " 

'' Oh, the laws were made to protect the house-ser- 
vants and town niggers. Some of these were smart 
enough for anything. But the country niggers are 
like monkeys. You can't learn them to come in 
when it rains," was her flippant answer. 

This was said to me just at the close of the war. 
Her statement refuted itself, — not an uncommon 
thing in those unsettled times. Negro schools had 
then been started with marked success. 



SLAVERY 5 

To a casual observer, the slaves seemed to be a 
careless, easy-going race, governed by impulse, and 
as contented with their present condition as they 
could be in any other. Many good people, who saw 
them only in holiday array, were deceived by their 
manner. Hence such books as " South Side View of 
Slavery," and others, were written in defence of 
the institution. 

The slaves of the town were mostly a merry, 
rollicking set, active and alert. The country people 
and field-hands w^ere more apathetic. They were, 
apparently, indifferent, unobservant, and uncom- 
municative. How was it among themselves? In 
every community, on every plantation, there were 
more or less restlessness and dissatisfaction among 
them. They well knew their condition as slaves. 
They knew, too, the possibilities of freedom some- 
where beyond the line of the Southern States. 

In the earliest days they had their secret socie- 
ties, their leaders and earnest advisers. Long be- 
fore anti-slavery societies were recognized at the 
North, or abolitionists became the bugbear of the 
South, the slaves met in swamps at midnight and 
planned and plotted to break their chains. Free- 
dom was the North Star, towards which their faces 
were constantly turned. There are those of the 
older generation who can remember the Denmark 
Vesey Insurrection, which only failed at the last 
moment. 

Without any knowledge of newspapers, or books, 
or telegraphy, the slaves had their own way of gath- 



b FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

ering news from the whole country. They had 
secret signs, an '' Underground Telephone," like the 
" Underground Railroad," which was of later date ; 
also unknown and unnoticed limited express mes- 
sengers. Intuitively they learned all the tricks 
of dramatic art. Their perceptions were quickened. 
When seemingly absorbed in work, they saw and 
heard all that was going on around them. They 
memorized with wonderful ease and correctness. 
The negro mind had never been cultivated; it 
was like an empty reservoir, waiting to be filled. 
Under their calm exterior was always a smoulder- 
ing volcano ready to burst forth. Of course the 
sharpest and most unscrupulous overseers were 
needed to watch the slaves, while bloodhounds were 
kept to track fugitives. 

Not long ago I heard some negro women talking 
of old times over their sewing. One said, — 

"My father and the other boys used to crawl 
under the house an' lie on the ground to hear 
massa read the newspaper to missis when they 
first began to talk about the war." 

"See that big oak-tree there?" said another. 
"Our boys used to climb into that tree an' hide 
under the long moss while massa was at supper, 
so ^s to hear him an' his company talk about 
the war when they come out on the piazza to 
smoke." 

" I couldn't read, but my uncle could," said 
a third. " I was waiting-maid, an' used to help 
missis to dress in the morning. If massa wanted 



SLAVERY 7 

to tell her something he didn't want me to know, 
he used to spell it out. I could remember the let- 
ters, an' as soon as I got away I ran to uncle an' 
spelled them over to him, an' he told me what they 
meant." 

I was attracted by this, and asked if she could do 
this now. 

''Try me, missis ; try me, an' see !" she exclaimed. 
So I spelled a long sentence as rapidly as possible, 
without stopping between the words. She imme- 
diately repeated it after me, without missing a 
letter. 

The children of this woman were amongst the 
first to enter a freedman's school during the war. 
They took to books as ducks take to water. The 
youngest, a boy, was really entered when a baby 
in his sister's arms, and was only allowed to re- 
main because his nurse could not come without 
him. As soon as he could walk his mother com- 
plained he did not know anything. When he was 
three years old she was bitterly disappointed that 
he could not read. 

''Why, if I had his chance," she exclaimed, 
rolling up her eyes and stretching out her hands, 
"do you think I would not learn ! " 

It goes without saying, that her children be- 
came good scholars. This youngest boy is now a 
leader amongst his own people. 

Many thrilling stories have been written of the 
struggles of these poor creatures to secure that lib- 
erty which is the foundation and bulwark of our 



8 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTKABANDS ] 

I 

Constitution. ''We hold thehe truths to be self- \ 

evident, that all men are born free and equal." j 

Others of these stories will be written and read ] 

in the future. In each little district were pa- I 

thetic histories proving that ''truth" is "stranger ] 

than fiction." \ 

" Uncle Tom's Cabin," with its vivid pictures of \ 

the conditions and possibilities of slavery in the I 

first half of this century, was eagerly read by all j 

who could get hold of it. At the South it was ^ 

tabooed. Postmasters refused to let it go through \ 

their offices. Whether this was an edict from j 

higher officials I am not able now to say. | 

In 1850 I happened to be in Central Georgia. \ 

A copy of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was sent me. It j 

was taken from its wrapper at the post-office and | 

eagerly read by the postmaster, his clerk, and all I 

the young men of the town. Then word was sent [ 

to me that the book had been received, and thrown | 

into the fire, which would be the fate of all other j 
incendiary documents. Half the world who read 
this book denied its truthfulness, and the other half 
tried to forget it. 

Then came the " Fugitive Slave Bill." There was 
a fierce struggle for humanity at the North, and de- 
termined resistance at the South. A battle was 
pending between Might and Right. Slavery was 
tottering. 

In the meantime, the slaves as a race were seem- 
ingly oblivious to all that was going on. But, i' 
fact, they well understood who were their frienc 



m 



SLAVERY 9 

and what they were doing for them. So they 
watched and prayed and waited in hourly expecta- 
tion. All their ''spirituals," their shouting songs, 
had freedom in some guise or other as a refrain. 

*' We must fight for liberty 
In that new Jerusalem/' 

was their Marseillaise. 

These people knew from the first of all the talk 
about " States' Rights," " Secession," etc. When 
the Southerners were in secret session, plotting dis- 
sension, the slaves were also holding secret meet- 
ings, planning for their own escape. There are 
many instances of the slaves' heroic devotion and 
self-sacrifice to their masters' families, while they 
were devoutly praying in secret for the overthrow 
of the Rebels and success of the Unionists. 



10 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 



II 

CONTRABAND 

Origin of the Name. 

In the War of the Rebellion, May 24, 1861, a 
report was sent to headquarters of the Union army 
which read thus : " Three fugitives, the property 
of Colonel Mallory, commander of the Rebel forces 
near Hampton, were brought into Fortress Mon- 
roe by the picket guard. They represented that 
they were about to be sent South, and hence 
sought protection. Major Gary came in with a 
flag of truce, and claimed their rendition under 
the ' Fugitive Slave Law,' but was informed by 
General Butler that, under the peculiar circum- 
stances, he considered the fugitives ' contraband ' 
of war." 

From this time the ex-slaves were known and 
designated as '-'contrabands^^' a name which clung to 
them for a long time, and which is still heard in 
some localities. They could not be called f reed- 
men, as emancipation had not yet been declared. 
Events now crowded upon each other thicker and 
faster. Wars and rumors of wars filled the land, 
and all the people were in arms. 



EXODUS OF THE CONTRABANDS 11 

The Exodus of the Contrabands. 

Early in November, 1861, the United States fleet, 
under command of Commodore S. F. Dupont, ar- 
rived off Port Royal Harbor, S.C, and on the 7th 
the Rebels abandoned their forts, and the Union 
forces took possession of the entire country around. 
This included a group of sea-islands, on which 
were some of the richest and finest plantations 
to be found in the South. As the Union forces 
advanced, the Rebels retreated to the mainland, 
and left their plantations to the care of the ne- 
groes, who were reported as '' wild with joy at the 
defeat of the Rebels. They had been shot down, 
they say, like dogs, because they would not go off 
with their masters." 

All the white people had fled. When Beaufort 
was taken, Dec. 8, there was but one white man to 
be found, and it was said he was too intoxicated 
to leave. Negroes poured into the Union lines 
from all directions. They believed the day of jubi- 
lee had come, and these were their protectors and 
friends. In Beaufort the negroes were pillaging the 
town. They said the whites were shooting them 
right and left, in order to drive them back into 
the interior. One man, whose name was given, 
was said to have shot six of his slaves. 

That was indeed a ''time to try men's souls;" a 
time, too, when all were on trial before the world, 
and forced to show what they were good for. 

The fate and condition of the negroes became a 



12 IRST DAYS WITH THE COKTBABANDS 

matter of deep interest to the whole civilized world. 
Many conflicting reports concerning them were 
spread abroad. 

General Thomas F. Drayton, who was a native 
of the South, but a Union naval officer, while his 
brother was in the Confederate army, wrote, — 

*^So far from there being any insurrectionary feelings among 
the negroes, I have never heard nor seen any act of pillaging, 
incendiarism, or violence in any direction. It is true that the 
negroes of a few plantations have shown a spirit of insubordina- 
tion by refusing to remove up the country when ordered to do 
so by their owners ; but this disobedience should be assigned rather 
to a feeling of dismay and utter helplessness at being left alone 
and unprotected by the precipitate abandonment by their masters 
of their plantations, than from any organized plan of resistance 
to the authority they had been accustomed to obey. They are 
fast recovering from their fright, and coming forth from their hid- 
ing-places, and quietly and submissively resuming their agricul- 
tural labors without the guidance or presence, in many instances, 
of either master or overseer.'^ 

Early in the winter an expedition under Com- 
mander Drayton went up the Ashepoo River. Not 
long after other expeditions were formed to make 
raids upon the more remote of the sea-islands, which 
had now been entirely abandoned by their owners. 
The negroes had been left to take care of them- 
selves, and were in a most demoralized condition. 
At Hutchinson's Island they were found crouching 
about some smoking ruins, and were in a most des- 
titute condition. 



REFUGEES 13 

Refugees, 

The reports of these expeditions, as given by the 
officers of the gunboats and by the " contrabands " 
themselves, were often touching and amusing in the 
extreme. 

An overseer on one of the plantations ran into the 
house when he heard the boats were in, sight, and 
excitedly called all the negroes together, saying, 
" The Yankees are coming ! The Yankees are com- 
ing ! The gunboats are down the river. You must 
all keep out of sight. Don't let them see you. If 
they land near here, cut and run and hide where no- 
body can find you. I tell you them Yanks are the 
very devil ! If they catch you they will sell you to 
New Orleans or Cuba ! " 

"Never fear. We'll run sure. We'll run so de 
Debil hisself couldn't catch we !" they all exclaimed. 

'' Don't you worry, Massa Jim," said the old cook. 
"We all hear 'bout dem Yankees. Folks tell we 
they has horns an' a tail. I is mighty skeery myself, 
an' I has all my t'ings pick up, an' w'en I see dem 
coming I shall run like all possess'." 

"Well, I am going to the main, and I leave all 
here in your care," said the overseer as he rode off. 

" Good-by, ole man, good-by. That's right. Ske- 
daddle as fas' as you kin," said the negroes as the 
white man disappeared. " When you cotch we 
ag'in, I 'specs you'll know it. We's gwine to run 
sure enough ; but we knows the Yankees, an' we 
runs that way." 



14 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

As the boats ascended the river, crowds of poor 
colored people were seen in some places huddled 
together, or scattered along the shores, screaming 
and gesticulating in the wildest manner. Some of 
the more daring leaped into the water, trying to 
wade or swim to the boats before they were landed. 

When the gunboats touched the shore, the news 
spread like wildfire. Men, women, and children 
rushed frantically to them, begging to be taken on 
board. There was a curious mixture of hope and 
fear amongst these wretched creatures. 

All the white people on the plantations had left 
precipitately for the interior of the State, taking with 
them as many of their servants as possible, and leav- 
ing the rest to their fate. On some of the places all 
the strong and able-bodied slaves had been carried 
" up country " by their masters, and only the weak 
and decrepit had been left behind. 

In this general stampede for the boats, of course 
the youngest and strongest were first on board. 
Those still on shore begged so piteously to be taken 
care of, that they were put in the guard-house for 
safe keeping. When order was a little restored, an 
officer walked past the guard-house, and, looking in 
upon the crowd there, said, " Well, what are you all 
about?" 

^'Dat's jes' what we'd like ter fin' out, massa," said 
one of them. 

Some sad scenes were witnessed. Mothers were 
separated from their children, and " old parents " 
were overlooked. These poor creatures, on the re- 



REFUGEES 15 

mote plantations of distant islands, had been in the 
most abject fear for a long time. Now those who 
had reached what seemed to them safety were wild 
with delight, and immediately began their jubilant 
shouting songs. But those left behind unprotected, 
ran along the shore and even rushed into the water, 
uttering the most heartrending moans and wailings, 
which continued until the boat was out of sight and 
sound. 

Many grotesque scenes were also witnessed. When 
the government steamer John Adams anchored at 
one of the plantations, the negroes rushed along, car- 
rying every conceivable thing on their heads that 
could possibly be plac^ there, — clothing, blankets, 
tubs, pots, kettles, pigs, and chickens. One old man 
had his sick wife on his back, and a half-grown boy 
had his blind daddy, toting him along " to freedom." 
A huge negress was seen striding along with her 
hominy pot, in which was a live chicken, poised on 
her head. One child was on her back, with its arms 
tightly clasped around her neck, and its feet about 
her waist, and under each arm was a smaller child. 
Her apron was tucked up in front, evidently filled 
with articles of clothing. Her feet were bare, and in 
her mouth was a short clay pipe. A poor little yel- 
low dog ran by her side, and a half-grown pig trotted 
on before. 

Another woman staggered along under a large, 
rice-straw bed and her blankets. A man had a 
heavy box-coop filled with fowls. Innumerable were 
the pathetic and ludicrous stories told by officers 



16 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

and men, of scenes which they witnessed on these 
expeditions. 

When all these people were brought to Beaufort, 
the town was full to overflowing. They were quar- 
tered in every available place, 'and packed as closely 
as possible, — in churches and storehouses, and in the 
jail and arsenals. Most of the "negro quarters" 
had been taken possession of by the slaves who for- 
merly lived on the island, and who had fled from 
their old masters on the mainland, back to their 
homes. Gangs of these poor refugees were sent to 
different plantations, until there was shelter for no 
more. There was still a great throng houseless, with 
no resting-place. Tents were put up for them until 
barracks could be built outside the town, of which 
Montgomery District was one. 

Organization of the Contrabands. 

As soon as military discipline was established on 
the islands, the officers saw that something must be 
done to protect the colored people. General T. W. 
Sherman then issued the following " Order " from 
Hilton Head, S.C, Feb. 6, 1862: — 

^* The helpless condition of the blacks inhabiting the vast area 
in the occupation of this command, calls for immediate action on 
the part of a highly favored and philanthropic people. 

'^ The occupation of a large portion of this area of country on 
the 7th of November last, led to an address to the people of South 
Carolina, briefly setting' forth the causes which led to it, its objects 
and purposes, and inviting all persons to the re-occupation, in a 
loyal spirit, of their lands and tenements, and to a continuance of 
their avocations, under the auspices of their legitimate government 
and the protection of the Constitution of the United States. 



ORGANIZATION OF THE CONTRABANDS 17 

** The conciliatory and beneficent purposes of that proclamation, 
except in few instances, have not only been disregarded, but hordes 
of totally uneducated, ignorant, and improvident blacks have been 
abandoned by their constitutional guardians, not only to all the 
future chances of anarchy and of starvation, but in a state of such 
abject ignorance and mental stolidity, as to preclude all possibility 
of self-government and self-maintenance in their present condition. 

** Adequate provisions for the pressing necessities of this unfor- 
tunate and now interesting class of people being, therefore, now 
imperatively demanded, even by the dictates of humanity alone, 
an additional duty, next only in importance to that of the preser- 
vation of a world-revered Constitution and Union, is now forced 
upon us by an unnatural and wicked rebellion. 

^*To relieve the government of a burden that may hereafter 
become insupportable, and to enable the blacks to support and 
govern themselves in the absence and abandonment of their dis- 
loyal guardians, a suitable system of cultivation and instruction 
must be combined with one providing for their physical wants. 

'* Therefore, until proper legislation on the subject, or until 
orders from a higher authority, the country in occupation of the 
forces of this command will be divided off into districts of conven- 
ient size for proper superintendence. For each of these districts a 
suitable agent will be appointed to superintend the management 
of the plantations by the blacks ; to enroll and organize the will- 
ing blacks into working parties ; to see that they are well fed, clad, 
and paid a proper remuneration for their labor ; to take charge of 
all property on the plantations, whether found there, provided by 
the government, or raised from the soil, and to perform all other 
administrative duties connected with the plantations that may be 
required by the government. A code of regulations on this sub- 
ject, as well as a proper division of districts, will be furnished in 
due time. 

** In the meanwhile, and until the blacks become capable of 
themselves of thinking and acting judiciously, the services of com- 
petent instructors will be received, — one or more for each district, 
— whose duties will consist in teaching them, both young and old, 
the rudiments of civilization and Christianity, their amenability to 
the laws of both God and man, their relations to each other as 



18 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

social beings, and all that is necessary to render them competent 
to sustain themselves in social and business pursuits. 

*' For an efficient and complete organization of this system there 
will be appointed two general agents, one to have a general super- 
intendence over the administrative or agricultural agents, the 
other over the educational department. 

^^ As the blacks are now in great need of suitable clothing, if 
not other necessaries of life, which necessity will probably continue 
and even increase, until the above system gets into working order, 
the benevolent and philanthropic of the land are most earnestly 
appealed to for assistance in relieving their immediate wants. 
Never was there a nobler or more fitting opportunity for the oper- 
ation of that considerate and practical benevolence for which the 
Northern people have ever been distinguished." 

This is what first took me within the lines. " Never 
was there a nobler or more fitting opportunity," said 
General Sherman. This seemed like a divine call. 
" Opportunities are God's Providence." This was 
our opportunity ; the way was opened, and we entered 
in, not as an enemy, but as friends to humanity. 

Formation of Fi^eedmarC s Aid Societies. 

The news of General Sherman's order flew to 
every corner of the North. Intense zeal and enthu- 
siasm for this new field of labor and for those poor 
wards of government were aroused. Many persons 
hitherto indifferent to the anti-slavery cause were 
aroused by deepest pity for those suffering human 
beings, whether regarded as '' chattels," '' abandoned 
slaves," "contrabands of war," or "freed people." 
A crowd of noble men and women were eager to 
enroll themselves as superintendents, teachers, and 
assistants. 



EXPEDITION TO PCfeT KOYAL 19 

The Educational Commission of Boston, also known 
as Freedman's Aid Society, and The National Freed- 
man's Relief Committee of New York, were organized 
at once, and began a work of untold usefulness; 
branch societies and auxiliaries were formed in most 
of the towns in New England ; freedman's aid socie- 
ties were started in churches of all denominations. 
Members of families and neighbors joined themselves 
into independent clubs, — all to help on this great 
work amongst the negroes. 

A Peaceful Expedition to Port Royal. — Departure 

of Missionaries. 

March 3, 1862, Mr. Edward L. Pierce of Boston, 
government agent in charge of plantations and con- 
trabands at Port Royal, S.C, sailed from New York 
with about sixty persons, fifteen of whom were ladies. 
Of these, twenty-seven gentlemen and four ladies 
were from Boston ; twenty-one gentlemen and seven 
ladies from New York, and three ladies from Wash- 
ington and Philadelphia. To this band belongs the 
proud distinction of inaugurating this noble work. 
Their departure was heralded as '-'- The first mission- 
ary expedition to propagate industry, religion, and 
education among the contrabands at Hilton Head, 
as well as to encourage agriculture and like useful 
measures." In this band were persons from diverse 
positions in life and with varied experiences, — me- 
chanics, teachers, business and professional men. 
Most of these were volunteers, who went forth as to 



20 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

a holy mission, ready to do hard work with the 
strength and spirit of the martyrs of olden times. A 
few received compensation for their labors from the 
New York or Boston associations. All were required 
to take the oath of allegiance to the United States 
Government before going on board the steamer. 
Each person had a commission from one of the socie- 
ties, which authorized him to engage in some branch 
of this work, and each man was required to take oath 
that he would '' fight for his country " if occasion re- 
quired. The men went as superintendents, to take 
charge of the abandoned plantations, and of the 
labors of the negroes, and the women were to estab- 
lish industrial schools. All were pledged to look 
out for the comfort and well-being of these poor 
ignorant contrabands. 

From this time, throughout the entire North, there 
was a constantly increasing interest in this work. A 
great number of men and women, old and young, 
flocked to the societies, eager to be enrolled as 
laborers in this new field — very many more than 
there were places for. Indeed, it seemed sometimes, 
if " transportation " and " subsistence " could be se- 
cured for so many, there might be a special superin- 
tendent and teacher for each colored family already 
emancipated. At first it was exceedingly difficult to 
get transportation papers ; and a permit to enter the 
military department was a privilege accorded to but 
few of the great army of applicants. Subsistence 
was a matter of profound faith to these pioneers. 
They believed they should find food and shelter, and 



EXPEDITIOK TO PORT ROYAL 21 

be taken care of like the birds of the air, and they 
were. Neither government nor societies could do 
more than open the way, and those that entered 
therein must literally gird on their armor, and go on 
with brave hearts anci determined wills. Happy for 
all if to these were added earnestness and steadiness 
of purpose, and enthusiasm for the work, with a 
sympathy and pity for the past of the negroes, and 
faith in their future. 

One of the volunteer teachers, wife of an officer 
in the First S. C. C. R., wrote of her experience in 
teaching. She dated from Mills Plantation. 

** My school is constantly deranged by the changes of the camps, 
and the attendance interrupted by the duties of picket guard. 
By far the most interest and best progress are shown by the boys, 
who are not often called away from the school. 

** I asked one day, ' Who is President of the United States ? ' 

*^ They all agreed it was ' Uncle Sam.' 

'* One scholar, who proved not to know one letter from another, 
said, * I lam a little in Secesh, but kum away 'fore I finish my 
edecation.' 

*' His zeal in travelling one hundred miles at night, and risking 
his life at every step, to get to freedom, is shown in his school 
duties. 

** I am provided with a government tent, which my scholars 
have floored with pine sprays and surrounded with rough pine 
branches, and I find it as* comfortable and pleasant as any school- 
room can be. 

"" Many of my old scholars are at present beyond reach, being 
on guard duty, etc. They often express a wish to me to be taught, 
and I find them with books in hand, making the best use of the 
little knowledge they have acquired." 



22 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 



III 

HOW I ENTERED THE LINES 

Trip 071 Grovernment Steamer Arago. 

Oct. 25, 1864, I received the following commu- 
nication : — 

** You are hereby appointed by the New England Freedman's 
Aid Society a teacher of freed people at Beaufort, S.C' 

. Armed with this commission, which entitled me to 
serve my country in the small army of teachers, 
sometimes lightly spoken of as '' Gideon's Band," 
and with the proper transportation papers, I reported 
myself on the 28th at the quartermaster's office in 
New York. Fortunately my papers had been sent 
me direct from General Rufus Saxton, then military 
commander and governor of South Carolina, Georgia, 
and Florida. 

My passport was duly vised, and I was advised to 
get on board the steamer the next morning as early 
as possible. Therefore, by eight o'clock, accompa- 
nied by several friends who promised to see me off, 
I started for the government steamer Arago, which 
was to sail at noon. Notwithstanding the early hour, 
it was almost impossible to reach the boat. Carts, 
carriages, and piles of military supplies blocked the 



TRIP ON STEAMER ARAGO 23 

way, whilst squads of soldiers, with bands of music, 
surrounded us on all sides. At length, after much 
jostling and pushing, and many delays as we were 
borne along by the crowd, we landed at the foot of 
the gangway. There we were suddenly ordered to 
'^ Halt." Two swords were crossed in front of me, as 
I was ahead. The way was stopped, and the word 
" Pass ! " was screamed into my ears. Immediately 
one of my friends thrust the passport into my hands, 
which as I held it up was hastily scrutinized by the 
officer in command. Soldiers with glittering bayo- 
nets stood on all sides of us. The two swords were 
raised enough for me to go under, and I was motioned 
forward. They were immediately dropped behind 
me, and my friends were ordered back. Words were 
of no avail, so they reached over the barrier and piled 
bags, bundles, and books onto my already over- 
loaded arms, whilst vainly trying to gesticulate 
directions and a "good-by." One "last, lingering 
look " behind, and I found myself alone, marching up 
the plank between a double file of soldiers, feeling 
very much as if I were a deserter from the ranks, 
or a spy, or military prisoner destitute of patriotism 
and bereft of courage. 

Arrived on deck, I was left to myself. My escort. 
Major Saxton, who was returning to his post with his 
wife and baby boy, had not yet arrived, and for 
a long time I was the only passenger to be seen. 
There was not another woman yet on board — only 
soldiers and officers hurrying to and fro, gesticulat- 
ing and shouting unintelligible orders. I tried in 



24 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

vain to go below. This could not be allowed until 
the "ranking officer" came on board and the military 
were furnished with quarters. Civilians, and espe- 
cially " females," were regarded without favor. For- 
tunately, by the suggestion of a friend, I had provided 
myself with the inevitable camp-stool, which now 
came into good use, and for a long time after did 
excellent service. Getting close to the side of the 
vessel, to be out of the way, and to avoid observa- 
tion, I watched the progress of affairs for the next 
three hours. In the course of the morning several 
women arrived ; officers' wives, teachers, and a few 
belonging to the families of merchants and specula- 
tors. Not one of them could get transportation and 
a passport through the lines without first having 
a teacher's commission and pledging herself to aid 
in the work of education. At that time army regu- 
lations were very strict, as some mischievous and 
traitorous women had already succeeded in getting 
into the military departments. 

In due time my friends came on board, after which 
all arrangements were most happily made for me. 
Our "passports" only entitled us to "transporta- 
tion." Staterooms and " subsistence " were to be se- 
cured after we sailed, and, as the military were served 
in the order of their rank, of course teachers had the 
fag-ends of everything. In some instances the poor 
accommodations they did get were accorded most 
grudgingly. All these arrangements were under the 
care of the purser and steward, over whom the cap- 
tain had apparently little or no real authority. An 



TRIP ON STEAMER ARAGO 25 

unprotected woman without a military friend on one 
of these government boats had a hard time, being 
often rudely treated, or entirely neglected, by these 
servants. The Arago was a noble exception and a 
good boat. All the arrangements were as complete 
as it was possible to make them. But I watched 
with dismay the fruitless effort of some women to 
get a quiet corner for rest. 

At last, just as the city bells began to ring out 
twelve o'clock, we weighed anchor, and slowly began 
to drop down the harbor, amidst the roaring of can- 
non, screeching of the whistle, and shouting of the 
crowd on shore. Hurry, bustle, and confusion every- 
where ! Some persons were late and were pulled 
aboard after the plank was taken in. Their boxes, 
bundles, and^ valises were recklessly thrown after 
them. As long as we could see and hear anything 
the crowd on shore waved and hurrahed to us. How 
quickly the old life ended, and our new life began ! 
Whilst the booming of the guns still rang in our 
ears, the purser began to place us " according to rank 
and station." 

It is pleasant to recall these days of my ''first ex- 
pedition." Before we were fairly out to sea, the 
quiet and order of a well-regulated family was estab- 
lished. People soon ceased to be strangers to each 
other. A common cause made all friends. At table 
we were placed like guests at a private party. Around 
us were officers and their wives who " had been 
doTfn " before, and who had many interesting stories 
of camp-life to tell. At my right were my friends. 



26 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Major Saxton and his wife ; on my left, a young sur- 
geon in a New York regiment. Our vis-a-vis were 
good Dr. Marsh (chief of the Sanitary Commission 
in Beaufort), and his wife ; and the post surgeon, 
Dr. Durant and Mrs. Durant. A little beyond were 
Mr. D. C. Wilson of the Quartermaster's Department, 
with his family. He had been with General Saxton 
on the first expedition to Hilton Head, and when he 
first entered Beaufort. What stories were told of 
camp-life and military experiences, full of pathos and 
tenderness, intermingled with ludicrous adventures. 
They come back to me now like the stories of Alad- 
din, or tales of the Crusades. 

Half the boat was crowded with soldiers, and of 
course there was much speculation as to their desti- 
nation. The ranking officer was non-cpmmittal. It 
was said that we were sailing '' under sealed orders," 
and that there were " twenty-five thousand stand of 
arms marked 'Nowhere,' " on board ; that the captain 
himself did not know his destination, and would not 
get directions until we reached Fortress Monroe. 
Some persons thought that the steamer might be 
ordered back to New York, and others predicted we 
should be taken to New Orleans before we landed. 
It was whispered on desk that we had prisoners who 
were below, to be exchanged, and our kindly sympa- 
thies were greatly aroused and much curiosity excited. 
There were those around us who looked wise, but said 
nothing, and the rest of us were left entirely in the 
dark. So, watching, waiting, and speculating upon 
coming events, the time passed until we reached 



TEIP OK STEAMEK ARAGO 27 

Fortress Monroe. Here a large fleet was awaiting 
orders. We were told our steamer brought these 
orders, and again there was much excitement and 
expectation. 

It was just sunset, the second day out, when we 
anchored in Hampton Roads. For a long time we 
stood by the side of the vessel watching the small 
boats, loaded with men, going to and from the land. 
Whether friends or foes we could not tell ; it was too 
dark to distinguish anything. We could only hear 
the plashing of the oars, the scraping of the boat on 
the sands, and the sounds of suppressed voices, with 
occasional quick commands. All we could know 
was, that a large number of men were taken off, and 
others brought back, and it was whispered around 
that these were the prisoners to be exchanged. The 
calm sea and clear sky, contrasting with the excite- 
ment around us, made the night seem doubly tranquil. 
This unceasing activity amidst the darkness reminded 
us of the uncertain future to which all were hasten- 
ing ; and the regular ringing of the half-hour bells 
seemed like the knell of departing time. 

All the evening and well into the night we listened 
to the stories of the officers returning to their posts 
of duty. Mr. Wilson told us that on this same day, 
two years before, he sailed from Fortress Monroe 
with the great Southern Expedition, a fleet of nearly 
fifty vessels. He gave an animated account of the 
incidents of that expedition ; of the entrance to Port 
Royal Harbor and the taking of Beaufort. 

" Why the Union forces did not take possession of 



28 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Port Royal Island until Dec. 5, 1861. So our troops 
did not fairly get to Beaufort until the 8th. It was 
something to see the town then. There Avas but one 
white man in it, and he was too drunk to leave ; I be- 
lieve he afterwards declared he feigned intoxication, 
not wishing to go away. He was a poor fellow any 
way. In November, 1861, our troops took Hilton 
Head, the place where this steamer is to land. Many 
curious and touching things happened at that time. 

" General Drayton, who biiilded and commanded 
the fort there, had a brother who was captain in our 
army. He was the only one of the family w^ho was 
for the Union, and he was '' true blue." When he 
went on board the Rebel flag-ship, some of the ne- 
groes belonging to his brother recognized him, and 
were wild with joy to see him ; I believe they consid- 
ered him the very personification of Liberty. You 
ask how the negroes appeared at this time? They 
were dazed. Some were greatly excited, and others 
were terribly depressed. The superior officers, of 
whom General Drayton was one, reported that there 
was no insurrectionary feeling among the negroes. 
They had shown no disposition for revenge or vio- 
lence. No acts of pillaging or incendiarism were re- 
ported at that time, which seems very remarkable 
under all circumstances. Some of the negroes refused 
to go up country when ordered off by their owners, 
which was considered unparalleled insubordination. 
The poor creatures were unsettled enough as they 
were, and they preferred to remain in the old familiar 
places. Who can wonder at this ? A great many hid 



TRIP ON STEAMER ARAGO 29 

away, but when they recovered from their fright, they 
came from their hiding-places, and went to work in 
the fields. They had no overseer or driver, but chose 
one of the head men to direct and advise them. 

" When our troops took Hilton Head Island the 
fields were white with cotton ready to be picked. It 
was a beautiful sight, and novel to most of our men. 
You must read the reports of the capture of Fort 
Walker and Fort Beauregard. Some parts read like 
a romance. 

" Fort Walker was on Hilton Head, and Fort Beau- 
regard was on Bay Point. The extreme points of 
these two islands form the entrance to Port Royal 
Sound, which is about three miles wide. This sound 
is a wonderful harbor, where many of our gunboats 
are now lying. 

" You will not be South long before you will hear 
about the advantages of Port Royal Harbor, for the 
officers and soldiers are very much impressed by it. 
They say it will take in the navies of the world. It 
is in the heart of South Carolina, and is only twenty 
miles from Savannah, and thirty from Charleston. 

"When our men landed on Hilton Head, the ne- 
groes guided them to the Rebel officers' headquarters, 
which was on the Pope Plantation. Here they found 
a very fine library. There were, besides the books, 
complete files of old papers, some dating as far back 
as 1812. Hard, wasn't it, to have all these things 
destroyed? " 

These stories seemed to us, in our novel position, 
,like leaves f rora history and romance. Unwritten his- 



30 FIEST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

toiy they certainly were. Listening, I realized more 
fully than ever before what struggles, feats of courage, 
and hours of endurance, had opened the way for us, 
and made possible our present peaceful expedition. 

Taking the Oath of Allegiance. 

At Hilton Head we were obliged to go to the pro- 
vost-marshal's office, and take the ''Oath of Alle- 
giance " '' to the best government in the world." 

This oath, which was read to us, and which we 
half audibly repeated, was very impressive. 

*'I do solemnly swear that I will support, protect, and defend 
the Constitution and Government of the United States against all 
enemies, whether domestic or foreign ; that I will bear true and 
faithful allegiance, resolution or law of any State convention to 
the contrary notwithstanding. And further, that I do this with a 
full determination and pledge to perform it without any mental 
reservation whatever ; and further, that I will faithfully perform 
all the duties which may be required of me by law. So help 
me God.'' 

As I held up my right hand and took the oath, I 
felt that I now belonged entirely to my country, to 
labor for that country's good. Our examination, if 
not overstrict, was a little amusing. We were closely 
scrutinized by the officer, who was hurriedly writing 
at his desk. " What name, please ? " and " What age 
shall I put down ? " with a conciliatory smile. Dr. 
Durant patiently stood by and answered for us when 
he could ; but the nearest of our friends would never 
have recognized any of us by the descriptions given 
in our permits. Having again raised my hand, '' swear- 



TAKING THE OATH OF ALLEGIANCE 31 

ing," I would ''give no aid nor information," etc., to 
the enemy, I received my papers, and found myself set 
down as ''Mrs. Butters," and described as "a tall 
lady with black hair and black eyes," etc. As not 
one of our number answered to this description in 
any way, we decided our young officer had drawn 
largely upon his imagination. Mrs. Wilson, who stood 
by my side, was very fair and delicate, and no taller 
than I. 

After this we left the Arago and were transferred 
to a smaller boat bound for Beaufort, which was sent 
down for the officers belonging to General Saxton's 
command. In due time we steamed up the river, 
past the forts. Bay Point, and the gunboats lying in 
Port Royal Harbor, — which General Sherman calls 
" the finest harbor that exists on the coast south 
of Hatteras," — and landed at the wharf in Beaufort. 
A curious crowd of white men and negroes stood 
around waiting for our boat to come up. Here we 
were welcomed by General Saxton and his staff; 
and in spite of the turmoil and confusion around us, 
and the insignia of war, we ceased to feel like strangers 
in a strange land. There were soldiers everywhere, 
"saluting" the general as we passed. Not a white 
woman to be seen, excepting some officers' wives 
and a few teachers expecting friends, and who only 
appeared in public under good escort. 

Negroes, negroes, negroes. They hovered around 
like bees in a swarm. Sitting, standing, or lying 
at full-length, with their faces turned to the sky. 
Every doorstep, box, or barrel was covered with 



32 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

them, for the arrival of a boat was a time of great 
excitement. They were dressed — no, not dressed, 
nor clothed, but partly covered with every conceiv- 
able thing which could be put on the back of a 
biped. Some of the women had on old, cast-off sol- 
diers' coats, with " crocus bags," fastened together 
with their own ravellings, for skirts, and bits of sail- 
cloth for head-handkerchiefs. Many of the men had 
strips of gay carpeting, or old bags, or pieces of 
blanket, in which they cut arm-holes and wore as 
jackets. Their pants were tied below and above 
the knees and around the waist with pieces of rope 
to keep them on. Words fail to describe their gro- 
tesque appearance. Fortunately they were oblivious 
to all this incongruity. They had not yet attained 
distinct personality; they were only parts of a 
whole ; once " massa's niggers," now refugees and 
contrabands. So all looked up with a smile, and 
put their hands to their foreheads in military fash- 
ion, with a " How d'ye, gineral ? How d'ye, missis ? " 
as we passed along. 

I was to be a guest at General Saxton's head- 
quarters, so we went directly there. This w^as a 
large and fine private residence, formerly the prop- 
erty of a wealthy Southerner, now called '' Secesh." 
At the large gate was a sentinel's box, before which 
stood a black sentinel, who gave us the military 
salute as we passed through. At the top of the 
high steps we were received by two black orderlies, 
who escorted us to the family rooms. All the 
lower part of the great house w^s used for mili- 



STAY IN BEAUFORT 33 

tary purposes. It was camp-life within doors. All 
night long I was aroused by the sentinel tramping 
under my window, calling out the hours with the 
voice of a stentor. "• Twelve o'clock, and all is 
well," or, " One o'clock, and all is well," giving rhyth- 
mical cadence to each word. Now and then he 
would bring his gun to the ground with a sharp clang, 
and call out, ''Who comes there?" After which 
the unceasing tramp, tramp, tramp, would begin 
again. Soon I ceased to be a stranger ; I began to 
feel great security as I listened to this steady march 
and monotonous call. I had a sense of watchful- 
ness and protection never experienced before. 

Stay in Beaufort. 

I had heard of the wonderful climate of the sea- 
islands. I was told it was almost perpetual sun- 
shine there, as a rain-storm rarely lasted more than 
twelve hours. But it rained three days constantly 
after my arrival. During that time I had opportu- 
nity to learn something of military life. 

The town of Beaufort was filled to overflowing 
with ex-slaves, or freed people, who were always 
spoken of as " contrabands." They had flocked here 
from every direction, — from the plantations not 
far away; from ''up country" and "down South." 
Every boat that came in from any direction brought 
a cargo of fugitives. 

When Beaufort was taken, Ofiicer Dupont re- 
ported, — 



84 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

**The inhabitants have fled, and the town is abandoned to 
the negroes, who are reported to me to be in a lawless condi- 
tion. . . . They were wild with joy and revenge. . . . They have 
been shot down, they say, like dogs, because they would not go 
off with their masters. . . . The Confederates were in an utter 
panic ; they deserted everything. '^ 

This was when the Union gunboats reached the 
town after taking Hilton Head. 

Captain Rogers also reported at this time : — 

^'Beaufort has been taken by the gunboats, the town having 
been abandoned by the whites. The negroes were pillaging the 
town. They said the whites were shooting them right and left, in 
order to drive them back into the interior." 

Some people who came off in a boat to the Seneca, 
said, " One man shot six of the negroes." There 
were those in town who bore the marks of the cruel 
treatment they had received, and who spoke with 
horror and with hatred of the burning of their houses 
and the killing of the slaves. 

The first Sunday after my arrival we went to 
the camp-ground, and heard Chaplain Lynch, a col- 
ored man, preach to the soldiers. The brigade was 
drawn up in line in front of General Saxton and his 
staff, whilst hundreds of contrabands were hovering 
around, — a mottled and grotesque background to 
the bright military display. As I stood upon the 
platform and looked down upon this crowd of black 
faces, I was thrilled with astonishment at their in- 
tense earnestness. They were huddled together as 
close as possible, quiet and subdued, but not dejected. 
All eyes were fixed upon the speaker with great so- 



OLD FORT PLANTATION 36 

lemnity. I began then to realize the importance of 
the duties we owed to the poor, ignorant ex-slayes. 

These were the people I had come to teach and to 
help. I had left all behind for their sakes, and I was 
impatient to begin. Each hour showed me, too, that 
at the North we had but a faint conception of the 
work to be done. 

Old Fort Plantation, 

I found my location was to be at Old Fort Planta- 
tion, a place of historic renown and great beauty. A 
large number of colored refugees had been brought 
here. These were part of the eight hundred brought 
off by General Montgomery on his raid to Combahee, 
— as poor and destitute a class of human beings as 
could possibly be found, for whom my sympathies 
had already been strongly aroused. Dr. Marsh had 
warned me against these people, assuring me "the 
slaves on the rice-plantations were the most degraded 
of the race." And he considered them " the connect- 
ing link " between human beings and the brute crea- 
tion. As this was purely a missionary work, these 
were the people I wished to come in contact with. I 
wanted to learn what could be done with the lowest 
of God's creatures. My subsequent experiences in 
teaching the freed people proved that the good doctor 
was wrong in his estimate of their character and con- 
dition. I found those from the mainland more intel- 
ligent and better bred than the mass of those from 
the islands. 

Sunday afternoon I drove in an ambulance down 



36 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

to the old plantation. My road lay along the river- 
bank, which was thickly bordered by large oaks and 
tall pine-trees. We passed through one or two plan- 
tations abandoned to the negroes, and past the con- 
traband village, a collection of low buildings called 
by the people themselves, " Mon'gomery Hill." 
Why a ''hill '' I could never learn, as there was not 
the slightest perceptible elevation. All the people, 
men, women, and children, came out to greet us, with 
bows, scrapings of the feet, courtesies, and a general 
shouting of "- How d'ye? missis ? " " How d'ye ? " 
" Us glad to see you'n'a ! " " How's all de folks 
when you lef ' 'em ? " This last inquiry they consider 
a special mark of respect, and one they never forget." 

The plantation house at which we stopped, and 
which was to be my future home, was one of the old- 
est on the island. It was a low, two-storied mansion, 
built in a wonderful grove of live-oaks and water- 
oaks, which covered an area of sixty acres. All these 
trees are heavily draped with the long gray moss, 
which is never found in greater luxuriance than on 
and around the sea-islands. 

It hung dank and heavy from the recent rains ; and 
as we entered the grove, this bright summer after- 
noon, the place seemed like a solemn, grand old 
cathedral. 

The house contained nine small rooms. The out- 
side door opened into a medium sized apartment, 
which was called " the Hall," but had always been 
used as parlor and dining-room. Out of this opened 
a butler's pantry and buttery, which enclosed one end 



OLD FORT PLANTATION 37 

of the open piazza. At the other was an office or 
waiting-room. There was adjoining this a small 
room which the servants designated as "drawing- 
room." A door opened from this room directly upon 
a narrow front piazza, from which there was a pleas- 
ant view of the broad river and of the islands beyond. 

A narrow flight of winding stairs led up outside 
from the back piazza to a small square entry, from 
which four doors opened into the bedrooms. The 
kitchen and laundry and servants' rooms were in sep- 
arate buildings. A row of these houses faced the 
back entrance. Not far away, and in plain sight, were 
the " negro quarters," a row of small houses placed, 
diagonally, where the " field-hands " lived. 

In front of the house was an avenue of magnolias 
leading to the river, which was bordered with a thick 
hedge of ''Spanish daggers," or ''bayonets," — the 
Yucca filamentosa. 

When the war broke out this place was mentioned 
as " Smith's Plantation," taking its name from the 
old owner. On one of the posts of the front piazza 
was found some writing, supposed to be by the for- 
mer owner. It said for more than forty years he had 
moved from this place to his house in town and back 
again, making the change over eighty times, and he 
devoutly thanked God for all the blessings he had 
received. 

It seemed indescribably pathetic to me, thus to 
walk into a stranger's house and take quiet posses- 
sion. There was nothing within to remind one of 
the original owner. It was only when I walked 



38 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

around and saw the carefully arranged grounds, with 
fine shrubs and vines and gravelled walks bordered 
with flowers, that I realized what the place had been. 
In spite of years of neglect, — for it was first left to 
the care of the negroes, and then taken by the 
Union troops and used for soldiers' barracks and hos- 
pitals — in spite of all this, there was much beauty 
left. As I walked around, I was more and more 
overwhelmed by a realization of the cruel necessities 
of a civil war. 

Old Fort. 

The old fort which gave its name to this planta- 
tion was built in 1562. Parts of it are still standing, 
showing the spot where Captain Jean Ribault and his 
party landed. Captain Landonniere described this 
place in his '' Histoire de la Floride." Large trees 
growing on top of the sea-wall stand as witnesses of 
its antiquity. 

In this Histoire^ Landonniere gave a fine descrip- 
tion of the harbor, saying, ^'- A raison de sa heaute et 
grandeur fut appelee Port Royal^'' which name it has 
always held '-'-avec raison,''^ 

From the banks of the river, which is a broad arm 
of the sea, I could distinctly see the Union gunboats 
lying peacefully at anchor at Bay Point and Port 
Royal Harbor. 

My first night spent in this old, deserted plantation 
house was full of troubled dreams. The novel and 
isolated position, with remembrances of the stories I 
had been listening to of its past and recent history, 



OLD FORT 39 

with the sighing of the wind, and dashing of the 
waves against the shore as the tide came in, all com- 
bined to weave around me strange and fantastic 
visions. But the early morning brought a healthy 
reaction, for there was work enough to do. Like 
soldiers, we had come with our knapsacks in our 
hands. We were to live on '' soldier's rations," and 
draw our supplies from the commissariat. In army 
fashion we " formed a mess." To each member of 
this was delegated some special duties, and each one 
in turn took charge and looked after supplies. By 
the we I mean a young man from Massachusetts, who 
was superintendent of that part of the island, and a 
young woman sent out by the New York society, and 
who had charge of the plantation school. 

The house was stripped of all furniture. The 
windows were without curtains, and had only board 
shutters to protect us from the sun by day and unwel- 
come intrusion at night. When these shutters were 
closed we were in absolute darkness. When they 
were open the windows were so shattered there was 
nothing to protect us from the wind and the weather. 
There were no domestic utensils. A few articles of 
household furniture had been gathered together for 
our immediate use. This place was first deserted by 
its owners, then stripped of every movable thing 
by the negroes, and then entirely devastated by the 
soldiers. 

We were not quite so bad off as a friend who went 
South with the first band of missionaries in 1862. 
His first location was on a plantation on St. Helena 



40 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Island. He had no culinary utensils but a large iron 
teakettle and a small frying-pan, and there was noth- 
ing else to be found far or near. So he first boiled 
his eggs in the teakettle ; then he boiled fresh water, 
to which he added his coffee. He baked bread in his 
pan until he learned to bake hoe-cakes on a real hoe 
before an open fire. He roasted potatoes in the ashes, 
and fried the bacon when the bread was done. These 
were all his resources for many weeks. Then a negro 
woman brought him a small hominy pot, so he could 
add this universal and nutritious edible to his bill of 
fare. 

We were better off than this, as the lapse of time 
had brought a little order out of chaos, and we were 
near " the base of supplies." 

Our house was a cheerless place at first. It took 
time and patience to bring around us anything like 
homely comforts. Three times a day our " rations " 
were spread upon a solid mahogany table, a relic of 
''secesh times," too big and heavy to be carried 
away. We drew up our camp-stools to this festive 
board, and enjoyed our repast as only tired, busy, and 
hungry people can. Table linen was voted out as 
too great a luxury in war time to be indulged in. I 
had brought with me a bed-sack, which was filled with 
corn husks, and never was rest more grateful than I 
found on this after a hard day's work. 



FIRST SCHOOL-DAYS 41 



IV 

WITHIN THE LIKES — Continued 
First School-days. 

One bright November morning I started to take 
possession of my contraband school. The air was 
soft as June ; birds were singing ; the cotton-fields 
were gay with blossoms which contrasted charm- 
ingly with the white matured bolls. My path lay 
through a grand old live-oak grove. It was won- 
derfully attractive, with its great trees covered with 
long gray moss, through which the broad sunshine 
cast fantastic lights and shadows. From this I 
emerged into an open field. There was no regular 
path, and the walk over the old cotton hills was ex- 
ceedingly rough and uncomfortable. 

The schoolhouse to which I was appointed was a 
rough, wooden building standing on palmetto posts 
two or three feet from the ground, with an open 
piazza on one side. When I first came in sight of 
this building, the piazza was crowded with children, 
all screaming and chattering like a flock of jays and 
blackbirds in a quarrel. But as soon as they saw me 
they all gave a whoop and a bound and disappeared. 
When I reached the door there was no living thing 
to be seen ; all was literally '' as still as a mouse ; " so 



42 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

I inspected my new quarters while waiting for my 
forces. 

There was one good sized room without partitions ; 
it was not ceiled, but besides the usual heavy board 
shutters its six windows were glazed. This was a 
luxury which belonged to but few of the school-build- 
ings. Indeed, these glazed windows had been held 
up to me as a marked feature in my new location. 

The furniture consisted of a few wooden benches, 
a tall pine desk with a high office stool, one narrow 
blackboard leaning against a post, and a huge box 
stove large enough to warm a Puritan meeting-house 
in the olden times. The pipe of the stove was put 
through one window. 

I sketch the picture of this, my first schoolroom, 
with tenderness. Rude and uncouth as it was, there 
are others besides myself who hold this place as sacred. 
I believe this was the first building ever erected ex- 
clusively for a colored school. It was built for the 
colored refugees with a fund sent to General Saxton 
for this purpose by a ladies' freedman's aid society 
in England. All the " contraband schools " were at 
that time kept in churches, or cotton-barns, or old 
kitchens. Some teachers had their classes in tents. 

Inspection over, I vigorously rang a little cracked 
hand-bell which I found on the desk. Then I saw 
several pairs of bright eyes peering in at the open 
door. But going towards them, there was a general 
scampering, and I could only see a head or a foot dis- 
appearing under the house. Again I rang the bell, 
with the same result, until I began to despair of get- 



FIRST SCHOOL-DAYS 43 

ting my scholars together. When I turned my back 
they all came out. When I faced about they darted 
off. In time, however, I succeeded in capturing one 
small urchin, who howled vociferously, " O Lord ! 
O Lord ! " This brought out the others, who seemed 
a little scared and much amused. I soon reassured 
my captive, so the rest came in. Then I tried to 
"seat " them, which was about as easy as keeping so 
many marbles in place on a smooth floor. Going 
towards half a dozen little fellows huddled together 
on one bench, they simultaneously darted down under 
the seat, and scampered off on their hands and feet to 
a corner of the room, looking very much like a family 
of frightened kittens. Hearing a noise and sup- 
pressed titters back of me, I looked around, and saw 
four or five larger boys rolling over and over under 
the benches towards the door. Whether for fun or 
freedom I could not tell ; but as the first boy sprang 
to his feet and out of the door, I concluded they all 
planned escape. But I "halted" the rest, and got 
them on to their feet and into their seats. Then I 
looked them over. They saw I was not angry, but 
in earnest, so they quieted down. The runaway 
peeped in at the door, then crept along and sat down 
by his companions. There was not a crowd of them, 
— not half as many as I supposed from all the clat- 
ter they had made. 

All these children were black as ink and as shy as 
wild animals. I had seen some of them before, and 
the brightest among them had been pointed out ; but 
they all looked alike to me now. I tried in vain to 



44 FIEST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

fix upon some distinguishing mark by which I might 
know one from another. Some of these children had 
been in a school before, but they were afraid of white 
people, and especially of strangers. As they said of 
a teacher on a subsequent occasion, " Us ain't know 
she." 

I had much the same experience with these children 
a few months later. Small-pox had broken out in 
the colored camps around Beaufort, and the command- 
ing officer issued an order that all the children should 
be vaccinated. So one morning a physician came to 
my school for this purpose ; I expected him, but had 
said nothing, not anticipating a riot. The room was 
full, many large boys and girls being present. The 
doctor laid his hat with a small box on the desk and 
took a chair. I called the lai'gest girl in the room 
to me, and I rolled up her sleeve, the whole school 
watching us with anxiety. The doctor took hold of 
her hand and raised his lancet ; this was too much ; she 
uttered a shriek, exclaiming, " O Jesus, save me ! " 
and, snatching away her hand, she darted out of the 
room, and the entire school followed her. The lead- 
ers dashed down the river-bank, and the little ones 
darted under the house. I called in vain, and fran- 
tically rang my bell. '' Miss Fannie," who was with 
me by that time, hunted about, and coaxed the few 
laggards she found; but they were not to be lured 
back to face a direful enemy who confronted them 
with a murderous weapon. There was nothing further 
to be done that day. The doctor went home, and 
towards night Miss Fannie and I went to see some of 



FIRST SCHOOL-DAYS 45 

the people, to whom we explained the object of the 
doctor's visit. The mothers, who had been watchful 
to protect their children, now turned around and be- 
rated them well for " being so scarry, ^^ 

" Don't you fret, missis. They is sure to be there 
to-morrow," they said ; and so they were, in full force. 
The doctor came again, and I explained what he 
wished to do, baring my own arm to show them the 
scar made by vaccination in my childhood. Now 
they were all as eager to have this done as they were 
reluctant before. Some of the boys came back and 
begged to have " some of that leettle stuff " put into 
the other arm. They evidently considered the bit of 
court-plaster a badge of honor. 

These children had been born and bred in troub- 
lous times. They had always been surrounded by 
conflict and confusion. Irrepressible ? That 's tame ! 
They were in a constant state of effervescence. In 
time, after some more skirmishing, the little gang be- 
fore me was brought into a degree of order. They 
listened, apparently, with open mouths and staring 
eyes to what I had to say. But I soon discovered my 
words were like an unknown tongue to them. I 
must first know something of their dialect in order 
that we might understand each other. 

Now I wished to take down the names of these 
children ; so I turned to the girl nearest me and said, 
"What is your name ? " 

"It is Phyllis, ma'am." 

"But what is your other name? " 



46 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

'' Only Phyllis, ma'am." 

I then explained that we all have two names ; but 
she still replied, ''Nothing but Phyllis, ma'am." 

Upon this an older girl started up and exclaimed, 
"Pshaw, gal ! What 's you'm title ? " whereupon she 
gave the name of her old master. 

After this each child gave two names, most of 
them funny combinations. Sometimes they would 
tell me one thing, and when asked to repeat it, would 
say something quite different. The older children 
would frequently correct and contradict the younger 
ones. I know now that they manifested much inge- 
nuity in invention or selection of names and titles. 
One boy gave his name as Middleton Heywood, 
shouting it out as if it were something he had caught 
and might lose. Whereupon another boy started up, 
saying angrily, "• Not so, boy. You ain't Massa Mid- 
die's boy. I is." 

All were now busily studying up their cogno- 
mens, and two or three would try to speak together 
before being called upon. One boy was ''Pump- 
kin," another "Squash," and another " Cornhouse." 
The girls were "Honey," and "Baby," and "Missy," 
and "Tay," with an indiscriminate adoption of 
Rhetts, Barnwells, Elliots, Stuarts, and Middletons, 
for titles. 

I thought of Adam's naming the animals, and 
wondered if he had been as much puzzled as I. Cer- 
tainly he gave out the names at first hand, and had 
no conflicting incongruities to puzzle him. In time 
I enrolled fifteen names, the number present. 



FIRST SCHOOL-DAYS 47 

The next morning I called the roll, but no one 
answered, so I was obliged to go around again and 
make out a new list. I could not distinguish one 
from another. They looked like so many peas in a 
pod. The woolly heads of the girls and boys looked 
just alike. All wore indiscriminately any cast-off 
garments given them, so it was not easy to tell 
" which was which." Were there twenty-five new 
stiholars, or only ten ? 

The third morning it was the same work over 
again. There were forty children present, many of 
them large boys and girls. I had already a list of 
over forty names. Amongst these were most of the 
months of the year and days of the week, besides a 
number of Pompeys, Cudjos, Sambos, and Rhinas, 
and Rosas and Floras. I now wrote down forty new 
names, and I began to despair of ever getting regu- 
lated. Fortunately, the day before, I had given out 
two dozen paper primers with colored pictures, and 
had written a name on each. So I called these 
names, but only two or three children came forward 
to claim their books. So I laid the rest one side. 
Then half a dozen little heads were lifted up, and 
one boy said, " Please, ma'am, us wants one o' dem." 

" I have no more, and these are given away 
already," I said. 

"You'na done give dem to we!" they exclaimed. 
I asked the first boy what was his name. Then I 
looked over the books. No name had been put down 
like the one he gave. It was the same with all the 
rest. But as I turned the books over, one girl ex- 



48 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

claimed, '^ Dar, da him ! " And coming forward, she 
pointed to one of the primers with evident delight, 
saying, " Him 's mine." I looked at the written 
name. It was Lucy Barnwell. I asked her name. 
It was Fanny Osborne. " Pshaw, gal ! " exclaimed an 
older girl, '^ Dat's youn'a mammy's name." 

Now the others came forward and picked out their 
own books. What marks they had to distinguish 
their property I have never been able to discover. 
But the children, and the older people too, rarely 
ever make mistakes in these ways. I have taken up 
a pile of books all just alike, and called to the children 
sitting in their seats to tell me to whom they belonged. 
They not only knew their own property, but their 
neighbors also. 

In time I began to get acquainted with some of 
their faces. I could remember that '' Cornhouse " 
yesterday was "- Primus " to-day. That " Quash " 
was " Bryan." He was already denying the old 
sobriquet, and threatening to " mash your mouf in," 
to any one who called him Quash. I reproved the 
boys for teasing him. " Oh, us jes' call him so," with 
a little chuckle, as if he ought to see the fun. The 
older people told me these were " basket names." 
"Nem'seys [namesakes] gives folks different names." 

It was months before I learned their family rela- 
tions. The terms " bubber " for brother, and " titty " 
for sister, with " nanna " for mother, and " mother " 
for grandmother, and father for all leaders in church 
and society, were so generally used, I was forced to 
believe that all belonged to one immense family. It 



FIRST SCHOOL-DAYS 49 

was hopeless trying to understand their titles. There 
were two half-brothers in school. One was called 
Dick, and the other Richard. In one family there 
were nine brothers and half-brothers, and each took a 
different title. One took Hamilton, and another 
Singleton, and another Baker, and others Smith, 
Simmons, etc. Their father was '' Jimmy of the 
Battery," or "Jimmy Black." I asked why his title 
was Black. 

'' Oh, him look so. Him one very black man," they 
said. 

These men are well settled, and have families grow- 
ing up in honor and respectability who are as tena- 
cious of their titles as any of the F. F. Vs. 

One boy gave the name of Middleton, but after- 
wards came to me, wishing to have it changed, say- 
ing, '' That 's my ole rebel master's title. Him 's 
nothing to me now. I don't belong to he no longer, 
an' I don't see no use in being called for him." But 
when I asked what other name he would choose, the 
poor fellow was much puzzled. He evidently sup- 
posed I could supply a proper cognomen as I sup- 
plied new clothes, picking out something to fit. In 
time he decided upon Drayton, as " that was a good 
name in secesh times, and General Drayton was a 
friend to we, an' no mistake. He fight on our side 
'gainst his own brother when the first gun shoot." 

That was the beginning of time for these poor 
freed people, '' when the first gun shoot." 



50 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Refugee Quarters. 

On Thursday the schoolroom was filled with eager 
children, who truly might be called a " jolly crowd." 
Only a few of these knew their letters. Those who 
had been in a school in the spring were shy of a new 
teacher. They must first see how things were going 
on, " fur us ain't know she," was their repeated asser- 
tion. Caution was their predominant quality. 

None of the children could count beyond twenty, 
so there was ample opportunity for oral instruction. 
I tried to group them in families. Twice a day I 
called the roll, that we might all become familiar 
with the new condition of things. It was difficult to 
tell at roll-call which was more puzzled, teacher or 
scholars. 

Friday, alas, found a terrible falling off. Not a 
quarter of the usual number were present. To my 
inquiries as to the cause for this, the invariable reply 
was, '' Him home for wash." This showed me that 
Friday was the universal washing-day throughout the 
colony. Thinking the work might be performed in 
half a day, I dismissed the little ones present, and 
told them to run home and tell all the others to come, 
for I was waiting for them. That was the last of 
school for that day. I waited and watched two hours 
in vain. No one came. So I shut my door and 
went to hunt for my scholars in the refugee quarters. 

These quarters were about half a mile away. 
There was a row of a dozen or more buildings, which 
resembled huge wooden boxes. Each house was 



EEI'tJGEE QUARTERS 61 

divided into four rooms or compartments, and in 
each room was located one family of from five to 
fifteen persons. In each room was a large fireplace, 
an opening for a window with a broad board shutter, 
and a double row of berths built against the wall for 
beds. One or more low benches, and a pine table with 
" piggins," home-made cedar tubs, on it, completed 
the furniture. The whiteness and cleanliness of 
table and piggins, and occasionally a '-' gourd " or tin 
dipper, to which may be added the number and 
variety of articles of wearing apparel hanging on a 
cross-piece in front of the "bunks," indicated the 
character, I might say the social status, of the 
owner. 

This village was built by the quartermaster of Gen- 
eral Saxton's department, for the refugees brought 
off by General Montgomery's raid up the Combahee 
and Ashapoo Rivers in May and June, 1863. In his 
first expedition he brought off three hundred of these 
poor slaves, who came to him for refuge, and seven 
hundred and twenty -seven on the second. 

I now came for the first time face to face with life 
in the " one-roomed cabin." Outwardly it repre- 
sented the poorest and most meagre animal existence. 
Was I repelled by these conditions? On the con- 
trary, my whole heart went out in pity for them. I 
forgot that I was working alone and single-handed, 
and I was ready to help them at any sacrifice. In 
military order I began inspection at once, to marshal 
my forces and " muster in " recruits. 

In spite of most adverse circumstances, there was 



52 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

a general air of tidiness and decency around the 
place. The space before some of the doorways was 
swept clean, and sprinkled with white sand from the 
bluff. Some clothes, just washed, were spread over 
the wild plum bushes, and the washtubs were turned 
on their sides against the house. These tubs were 
old beer barrels sawed in two. All the houses were 
not so respectable. But I soon learned the people 
had chosen a leader from their own gang to act as 
supervisor. To them he was something like the 
driver on the old plantations. 

Most of the women were sitting out-of-doors. 
The younger ones said their husbands were " ' mong 
Mon'gomery's men, ma'am," meaning Montgomery's 
Regiment, C. J., which was at that time in Florida. 

One woman was dexterously spinning cotton thread 
on a wooden spindle, or a long wooden pin, one end 
of which rested in a tin basin in her lap. With her 
right hand she twirled the spindle, holding small bits 
of cotton, roughly fashioned into rolls, with her left. 
In this rude manner she made most respectable 
thread and yarn, which she used for sewing and for 
knitting. 

She was shy at first about showing her work, or 
answering my questions, and she received my praise 
of her skill with evident distrust. Later I learned 
that the colored people were prohibited by law from 
appropriating even a single boll of cotton to their 
own use. But it was a very common thing for each 
woman to secrete a few handfuls of the cotton she 
had picked when she left the field. The old habit of 



BEFtJGEie QUAHTERS 63 

helping themselves to a fraction of the products of 
their labor, which they could not get otherwise, still 
clung to them. They evidently did not understand 
why they were not entitled to a pound of the cotton 
they alone had worked, when strange white people 
were seizing and carrying off whole crops, on which 
they had no apparent claim — the crops which the 
slaves had raised for their masters, and which had 
been kept in their hands. 

These people called themselves " Combees," 
because they came from Combahee River. The 
Combee women knew how to do many things of 
which the island people were quite ignorant. Before 
spring I saw many pairs of shapely gloves and stout 
stockings made of the coarse yarn spun in a tin 
basin and knitted on reeds, cut in the swamps. 
These were sent to husbands, sons, and lovers, off 
on duty as soldiers. 

It was a long time before I learned that the 
crude material used was ''contraband." When the 
women found me so unsuspicious, they exhibited their 
handicraft with no small degree of pride. It was 
not an unusual thing to meet a woman coming from 
the field, where she had been hoeing cotton, with 
a small bucket or cup on her head, and a hoe over 
her shoulder, contentedly smoking a pipe and 
briskly knitting as she strode along. I have seen, 
added to all these, a baby strapped to her back. The 
patient devotion of these negro women was most 
admirable. 

Two of the best people I have known were a man 



64 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

and his wife, superior field-hands, who always headed 
the gang of workers. He had charge of a mule, and 
rode to and from the field, whilst his wife patiently- 
walked behind, carrying the hoes and other tools. 
Whenever she rode with him in the mule-cart, she 
sat behind with her back to him. 

I will say here that this man came on and up in 
the worlds until he bought land for himself, and built 
a house with two stories, and owned a good horse and 
buggy, with which he drove to town, his wife proudly 
sitting by his side. 

One of the most respectable of the old women 
constituted herself my guide, as I made the rounds 
of the refugee quarters. At one door was old Leah, 
trying to darn a soldier's threadbare coat with some 
of the coarse yarn she had spun herself. The coat 
was black and the thread white, but that made no 
difference. On the contrary, I think she liked it 
better so. It looked like coarse embroidery to her. 
I praised her work. 

'' O missis ! us all larn to do leetle tings for we- 
sels," she said with a laugh. " I been cook for white 
folks steady. We's Combee^ ma'am," as if to be 
Combee implied everything. 

At another house my guide told me lived " Silvy 
an' Joe an' baby an' two chillen dead. Hunger kill 
'em las' June." That was the time they fled from 
Combahee. 

Susie said, " Me an' my ole man lib here, an' we 
sister lib wid we. Him got husband, but 'specs him 
husband in Beefort, ma'am." 



EEFUGEE QUARTERS 65 

No one was willing to confess there were any- 
young or able-bodied men around, for fear they 
would be drafted into the army. They were proud 
of volunteers, but a draft was like an ignominious 
seizure. These women were not quite sure of me, 
as I went around with note-book in hand. I might 
be a spy or a detective. It was a long time before 
these refugees could get rid of their suspicions of 
white people. Perhaps they never did. Since the 
beginning of the war they had been time and again 
deceived by Northerners and Southerners. 

General Sherman tells the story of a negro who 
cautiously approached his camp one night and 
watched him a long time before he would commit 
himself. Not long before, some Rebel soldiers had 
put on the blue overcoats of the Unionists and 
talked with the negroes, calling themselves their 
friends, and then severely punished them for mani- 
festing ''sympathy with the Yankees." 

Sarah and her husband, November, greeted me 
cordially. ''Us has three childun, missis," said 
Sarah. "Dem mus^ go to school, fur us want to 
larn something, fur sure." 

My guide took me into one room to see Viola, who 
was in bed desperately ill. She had no clothing or 
anything to make her comfortable. " Her husband," 
said the woman, " is wid Mon'gomery's boys in de 
regiment. Now de mudder-in-law Rose," — she pro- 
nounced it as one wovd^" mudderinlawrose^^^ — "tucks 
care of him." 

The devotion of this old mother-in-law I have rarely 



66 FIEST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

seen equalled. When the contrabands were first put 
in the barracks, there were twice as many as could 
possibly find room there. So " Government " put up 
tents for the overflow. Viola was put in one of the 
tents, where she remained through the winter, which 
was unusually severe. Small-pox broke out amongst 
the refugees, and their wants and sufferings were 
indescribable. Poor Viola never recovered from this 
exposure. Old Rose gave up her room to her, and 
lived in the tent without fire or a floor. My heart 
ached for these poor creatures, and I promised to 
send them something to make them more comfort- 
able as soon as I reached home 

" God bless you'na, missis ! You'na can't do noth- 
ing, an' you'na mustn't fret fur we. It can't be 
helpet. Us don't complain, an' us so glad to be 
here," said the brave old woman. 

I was so glad to turn from this sad scene to meet 
Tamar, a robust, merry-looking, middle-aged woman. 
Her mother and grandmother lived in the room with 
her. She also had three children, one of whom was 
married and lived there with his wife and baby, 
which baby the oldest woman was " minding." It was 
something to see five generations together, all appar- 
ently in good condition. At my request, Ned, the 
young father, took the baby, and all stood in a row. 
In the old vernacular they would have been called 
" a prime lot of niggers." I never saw a more fearless 
and self-contained set. They were all very black, and 
had been considered valuable, and they knew their 
own importance. 



REFUGEE QUARTERS 57 

Tamar said of her boys, " Missis, they mus' go to 
school sure. Us wants to larn, fur we've been in 
darkness too long, an' now we're in light, us want to 
larn. I wants to go to school too, myself, ef I kin 
larn." 

The great-grandmother, old Affey, was said to be 
over one hundred years old. At one time we were 
speaking to her of her age, and a gentleman of our 
party said, '' Aunty, I shouldn't wonder if you are 
one hundred and fifty years old." 

" I 'specs I is, massa. Or one hundred an' sixty 
at least. Why def [death] forget to tuk me long 
time ago," she answered with dejection. She always 
seemed aggrieved and neglected to be left so long be- 
hind her comrades. 

" I can't stay behind, my Lord ; I can't stay be- 
hind," is one of their spirituals. 

My guide stopped at one door, saying, '' A heap o' 
folks lives here, missis." Sure enough. I wrote 
down these names as she called them off. '' Venus," 
and '' John," and " Aunt Dinah," and " Gumbo," 
and "Mingo," and "Dido," and "gal Phyllis," and 
"Flora," and "him gran'son Billy," and "Doll," and 
two children named " Shadrach and Cudjo," — all 
of one family, or all " massa's niggers," which meant 
the same thing. They had fled from bondage together, 
and were now unwilling to be separated. 

My head grew dizzy trying to understand the dia- 
lect of these people. I was hopelessly confused in 
regard to their family relations, and I never knew 
whether they were talking of boys or girls. They 
spoke of all as "him." 



68 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

One woman said her husband " was druv up the 
country by de Rebels, and us brought off and never 
see him no more." 

She lived with her sister, whose husband was '' gone 
for soldier." Their children had all died. ''An' you 
see, missis, us all alone, an' us hab sup sorrow I can 
tell yer. But, t'ank de Lord, us ain't widout hope," 
said one. 

I stopped before one door in which stood two very 
bright-looking women, Jane and Daphne, who wel- 
comed me with smiles and courtesies, and asked me to 
take a seat. This I gladly did, for their room was as 
clean as possible, with an air of comfort, in spite of its 
poor condition. The rough floor had been scoured un- 
til it had become smooth, and over it was spread fresh 
white sand. On one side of the room were two rude 
shelves, on which were rows of piggins and pans and 
some iron spoons, all as bright as soap and sand could 
make them. The women's dresses were nothing 
but patches, sewed together with every variety of 
thread, even to coarse twine, but perfectly nice and 
clean. 

I asked Jane, the older woman, if she had a hus- 
band. She gave a cheery laugh, and tossed her head, 
saying, — 

" I 'specs I is, ma'am, somewhere 'mongst the secesh. 
But I don't know where, an' I ain't seen him, I don't 
know when's the time." 

Then she added, with a pardonable degree of pride, 
that she had a son in Thirty Third Regiment, '' Ser- 
geant Jones of Company G Street." She always 



REFUGEE QUARTERS 69 

added "street" to the company, as if to give it 
greater importance. 

She told me of a daughter who was left behind 
with the Rebels, and whom she had not seen for a long 
time. Talking of this daughter, the child of her 
heart, her face became sad and wistful. " For God 
only knows whether I'll ever see her again. She is 
shut up somewhere in Charleston." 

This little quaint old woman attracted me greatly 
by her brightness and her ready intelligence. She 
soon after came to live with me as cook, and was un- 
der my care the rest of her days. She proved a won- 
derful servant and a most valued friend. She be- 
longed to a good class. All her people had been 
house-servants, and no one of them had ever been 
bought or sold. This was to her the very acme of 
respectability. Sometimes she expressed great con- 
tempt for what she termed '' country niggers." 

Daphne told me her husband was " in Mon'gom- 
ery's battles." She and Jane were the first people I 
had met who were willing to talk of their old master. 
They had belonged to one of the oldest and most 
honored families in Charleston, and they always 
spoke with respect and affection of their former 
owners. " Him fret on to death when us come off," 
said Daphne. 

Before I had gone far I discovered that as I had 
begun to make calls, I must not omit one house, nor 
fail to speak to a single person, from the oldest grand- 
parent to the youngest child. Their social rights 
were inexorable. My guide said, '' All them people 
waits to say how d'ye to you," so I went on. 



60 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

The children soon made out my errand, and decided 
I came as a friend, so they swarmed around me like 
flies. I sat down on a hen-coop and proceeded to 
write down their names, whilst my guide called out 
to them to '' scrape the foot and hab manners." These 
were the names they gave : Sambo, Silva, March, 
April, Cornhouse, Quash, Juno, another April, Phebe, 
Flora, Rose, Missy, Girly, Tant, June, November, 
Friday, Monday, Gumbo, and Jack. Not one gave 
any title, nor knew what I meant when I asked for 
one. 

The first boy I captured and succeeded in making 
stand long enough to tell his name, was nearly scared 
out of his wits. He could only ejaculate '' O Lord ! 
O Lord ! " as if his death-warrant had been signed. 
But when the others found this was a harmless pro- 
cess, they were only too eager to be enrolled. Some 
of them came up twice, and wished to assume a 
second name. Before I came to the end of the line 
the last ones grew uneasy, for fear they should not 
be taken in, and began to say, ''You ain't call me ; " 
" nor me ; " " nor me." At the last, as I was closing 
my book, there came hurriedly forward ''Mila an' 
he aunty," and some others, begging to " be ticketed 
too." As I read over the long list, I felt sure of a 
full school, but was much in doubt whether I had 
seen any of these before, or if they were fresh recruits. 

The most notable people there were Smart and 
Mary Washington. They became staunch allies in 
and out of school, and proved themselves worthy of 
their significant and illustrious names. 



REFUGEE QUARTEES 61 

The old man said he was a " cooper by trade," for 
he " was born and raised on a rice plantation, an' he 
had seen hard times in his day. But de white folks 
t'ink much ob Mary, and been kin' to de ole woman, 
for her bin great breeder." 

" That's so ; some dem women breed like fish," said 
an old woman who stood near. 

'' So de massa been very keerful ob him," contin- 
ued Smart. 

Later in the winter the old man brought his new 
Bible we had just given him, for me to write his 
family record. He manifested a proper degree of 
pride when he announced himself as " the father of 
nineteen sons." He was much puzzled, however, to 
give their names, as they had been called sometimes 
one thing and sometimes another. " So many people 
give them basket names, I ain't 'zactly know myself 
which de right one," said the old man apologetically. 
But, after thinking a minute, he gave his head a wise 
little nod, and started off so briskly, saying, '' Now I 
'member," I felt quite sure he gave his boys new 
names throughout, substituting Moses for January, 
and Benjamin for Hasty, etc. He confessed they had 
been known in " old secesh times " as Primus, Roos- 
ter, Mealbag, and other comical appellations which 
referred to some special time, place, or circumstance. 
After getting them in order and written down to his 
entire satisfaction, I asked where was this army of 
boys. To my surprise he answered gravely, ''In 
heaven. All 'cept one, an' dat I t'ink is Solomon; 
yes, I mos' sure he named Solomon. He is in Men'- 



62 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

gomeiy Regiment, for him's a big man, so tall I could 
eat off his head," meaning he was his own height. I 
asked if he had been married more than once. He 
hesitated, then said gravely, " No, ma'am, only 'tween 
we and God."* 

I was sure of a full attendance at school after these 
introductions. When I first came in sight of the 
house, the piazza was filled with men, women, and 
children. I had heard many exclamations of " Dar, 
da him;" ''Missis comes fur larn we;" "Dar him 
come fur sure ; " and there was a general shuffling of 
feet and happy greetings. Some of the children were 
disposed to dart off as usual, but the older ones kept 
them in order. The men and women had only come 
to "' get their names put down," as the field-work was 
not done. Each one regarded it as an honor to be 
enrolled as a scholar. They all left with a new con- 
sciousness of their own individuality and personal 
dignity. I use this term advisedly. The poorest 
and most down-trodden of these people are self- 
respecting. 



FIKST DAYS AMONGST THE CONTRABANDS 63 



V 

SCHOOL-DAYS 

The warm autumn days continued. Before Christ- 
mas the field-work was done. Cotton was picked, 
potatoes were banked, and ground-nuts gathered in. 
Now children and parents, even the old gray-headed 
people, hurried together to the schoolroom. Such a 
motley crowd, I venture to say, was never seen in 
a school before, and will not be again : all is changed. 

The schoolroom was filled to overflowing with 
eager, expectant scholars. " Us wants book-larning, 
too^ bad," they said over and over again. 

Some of the children had been in school before. 
But not one of the grown-up people could read or 
even knew how to handle a book. Indeed, a book 
was to them a mystery which they supposed would 
impart knowledge by some occult influence without 
any effort on their part. They were beginners in 
every sense of the word, as they expressed it. 

'^ Us ain't know nothing, an' you is to larn we." 

Work accumulated rapidly. I wished I had fifty 
pairs of hands to labor with. But there was no time 
to waste in wishing. Afraid ? I knew no such word 



64 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTKABANDS 

as fear. I only thought of what might, could, would, 
and should be done. 

A sewing-school seemed to be our most pressing 
need, so I announced that one should be started at 
once. But material to work on was needed, and there 
was none on hand. It took a very long time to get 
supplies from the North. We soon learned we must 
be patient waiters in a military department, espe- 
cially when Sherman's army was passing through. In 
this dilemma General Saxton came to my aid. There 
was some coarse, heavy contraband goods stored in 
the arsenal. Could I make use of it in my school ? 
I replied, we could use anything that could be cut 
with scissors and pierced with a needle. So he do- 
nated several pieces of dark hickory-brown twilled 
cotton. One of the "Disciples" in Boston had 
already furnished me with a generous supply of 
threads, needles, thimbles, etc. With these I felt 
rich indeed. Twice a week the major's wife and Mrs. 
Wilson drove down from headquarters in an ambu- 
lance to help me in cutting, basting, and directing ; 
helping me to bear a load which was becoming too 
heavy. It was true, as they said, " We could not 
enter the department without a teacher's commission, 
and we are quite ready to fulfil our contract." They 
nobly redeemed their promise. 

No sooner was one set of girls supplied with work 
and clothing, than another "gang," as they called 
themselves, appeared. Sewing had a great fascina- 
tion for all. They learned readily, and soon devel- 
oped much skill and ingenuity. They had never had 



SCHOOL-DAYS 65 

the freQ use of sewing materials before, and were now 
delighted beyond expression. 

I dismissed the morning school, and told the girls 
Vho wished to sew, to go home for luncheon, and 
come back in half an hour. This was the first day 
when sewing was inaugurated. When I returned 
after recess, I found the girls still on the piazza, wait- 
ing and watching for the ambulance which was to 
being "the ladies from town. Upon questioning them 
I found they were afraid of losing their chance if 
they did not stand by. 

" Dem won't let we come back ef we go home," 
said one large girl apologetically. 

The ladies were never weary of well-doing. There 
was much that was interesting, and also amusing, in 
the attempts of some of the younger girls to master 
the intricacies of plain sewing. I see before me now 
those bright-eyed, demure-looking maidens, as they 
came lip, one after another, for a needleful of thread, 
which they always received with a courtesy. Indeed, 
they never took anything from a teacher, whether 
book, paper, pens, or the simplest thing, without 
dropping a courtesy, but they were shy of speaking. 

" Can you not say thank j^ou to the lady who has 
been so kind to you ? " once said a gentleman to a 
large girl. She gave him a startled and inquiring 
look, then turned and made a deeper courtesy and 
went away. She evidently did not know what he 
meant. 



66 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTEABANDS 



Old Fort Children. 

The girls of the plantation who went to a small 
school held in the Praise house in the grove were 
much distressed to find their neighbors enjoying ad- 
vantages which they had not. So one day they sent 
a messenger to beg me to take them into school " fur 
sew." I was obliged to refuse, on account of my lim- 
ited supplies. 

These children had been rather unfriendly to the 
refugees, always passing them with a degree of scorn, 
and speaking of them as ^' dem rice niggers." But 
now they were entirely ready to fraternize. One 
little creature smuggled herself into the school and 
remained a long time before I discovered she belonged 
to the other district. Another left home and went 
to stay with an auntie, only half a mile away, so as 
to be in the limits of my district. Then one day all 
the girls came early and seated themselves before I 
arrived, determined to try a coup-de-main. This was 
on Saturday, when their own school was closed. It 
was impossible to take them in then, so I treated 
them as visitors until recess, then explained, as well 
as I could my reasons for refusing to admit them, 
and thus sent them away. Later in the season I was 
enabled to unite the two schools, greatly to the sat- 
isfaction of all concerned. 

There must be a little bird in every bough to carry 
news, it flies so fast. As soon as this new decision 
was made, a group of these same girls appeared at the 
schoolroom door to escort me home. It was their 



OLD FOKT CHILDKEN 67 

custom to hop around behind me, much like a flock 
of blackbirds ; and like these birds, too, they chattered 
all the time. I heard one girl say to another that she 
was coming to my school now. The other indignantly 
repudiated the idea. 

" Not so, gal ! That's a story," she said. " Yes, us 
is too ! " said another, with vehement gesticulations. 
" Her b'longs to we now, an' us b'longs to she," and 
they marched on triumphantly. 

The refugees were vastly worse off than the plan- 
tation people. They literally had nothing to wear, 
and the weather had become very cold. Women 
came to me with only a skirt on, made of coarse bag- 
ging, or "crocus," tied together with twine, and a 
nondescript garment over the shoulders, something 
between a shawl and a sack, made of old bits of car- 
peting. Girls wore soldiers' cast-off jackets and over- 
coats, and boys had on calico sacks. Many of the 
children had on but one garment, which was like a 
long smock-frock. In this guise they all looked alike ; 
especially as men, women, and children wore pieces 
'of old cloth tied over their heads to keep out the cold. 

Grammatically speaking, gender in school was hope- 
lessly mixed. Him and he were used indiscrimi- 
nately. A woman would call her husband " the 
ole man." One man said of his wife, "The ole hen, 
he mighty keerful." 

A more grotesque-looking crowd was never seen, 
nor a merrier one either. Their grotesqueness came 
from necessity ; each one had put on the thing that 
came first to his hand. Their merriment was partly 



6S FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

characteristic of the race, but also a hopefulness and 
faith in the good time coming. It seemed but fair 
to help those people first who, in their flight, had left 
their few possessions behind them. 

Irregularity, 

Whilst the zeal of these people for learning never 
flagged, they had no possible conception of time, or 
the fitness of things. Men, women, and children 
hurried to the schoolhouse at all hours and at most 
unseasonable times, expecting ''to catch a lesson." 
Reproof was unheeded, or not understood ; " Us had 
something particular to do," was the invariable ex- 
cuse. Finally I told the children to start for school 
as soon as they had eaten their breakfast. This had 
no effect. I learned in time that breakfast, as we 
understand it, was to them an unknown term. They 
ate when they were hungry. Then I said, " Come as 
soon as you are up." The next morning by daylight 
I heard a low chattering and suppressed laughter, and 
looking out of my window I saw the piazza was filled 
with black heads. An eager crowd was waiting for 
me. Every morning after that the whole " gang " 
came to escort me to school. Usually one bolder 
than the rest would come to the door and announce, 
" Us waiting on you, ma'am." I soon began to feel 
that it was I who was under supervision and kept up 
to my duty, and not my poor neighbors. In order to 
establish regularity and to push things on, we had 
sewing-school every Saturday. 

Most of the boys felt aggrieved. They begged to 



IBREGtJLARITY 69 

be allowed to sew too. " Tain't fair," we heard them 
say ; '' Dem gals has all de t'ings." So in time, when 
our stock of goods increased, we had a class of boys 
xin sewing, some of whom did most creditable work. 

I use the word " we " with great satisfaction, for 
my military friends stood by me all winter, lending a 
helping hand when and where they could. Without 
their aid I should have been working alone. Many 
days I never saw a white face from morning until 
dark. Literally I '' paddled my own canoe," as the 
negroes say. 

In time some of the most industrious girls finished 
their new dresses, — stitching, overcasting, buttons, 
and buttonholes, — ready to carry home and to wear 
to Sunday-school the next day. This was indeed a 
great occasion. The delight of the possessors was 
inexpressible, while the admiration of the beholders 
was very manifest. To our surprise, no matter how 
destitute were those less fortunate, they showed 
neither envy nor jealousy. The delight of one was 
shared by all. 4 

The entire school was nearly upset and demoral- 
ized when thirty new dresses were finished and folded 
ready to be carried home. The children suppressed 
their mirth as best they coulcj until they got out-of- 
doors. Then their pent-up spirits burst forth ; such 
shouts and guffaws as they gave. They knocked 
each other in the ribs, rolled over and over, and 
turned somersaults, and did all sorts of funny things. 
We laughed heartily in sympathy as we sat down on 
the piazza, and drew a long breath of relief after a 
very hard day's work. 



70 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Northern Friends. 

During this time my Northern friends, individually 
and collectively, were doing their utmost to help on 
the work "amongst the freedmen." The Freedman's 
Aid Society of Boston was constantly forwarding sup- 
plies to the different posts where schools were estab- 
lished. But in our unsettled condition, it was ex- 
tremely difficult to get hold of the things intended 
for, and sent to us. Innumerable boxes and bundles, 
big and little, went astray. How many hours and 
days of patient watching and waiting we have spent 
looking for the things we knew had been sent, but 
never came ! 

The best gift of all was ''Miss Fannie,'^ who was 
forwarded to me just after New Year's, ostensibly to 
be my assistant. But I halt at the word, for she was 
everything to me, and to the poor people around me. 
Young, active, and enthusiastic, fresh from school, 
with all the new methods of study and teaching, she 
inspired an admiration and enthusiasm which fell 
little short of hero worship. 

I say she was sent, for those were the days of red 
tape and military discipline. No one could enter 
this field of labor without a certain selection and 
ordination. 

My pastor, Mr. James Freeman Clarke, of the 
Church of Disciples, Boston, had already written, 
"When you need an assistant, we are ready to adopt 
her and help her to get to you." The time had come, 
and Miss Fannie was started, but was stopped in New 



NORTHERN FRIENDS 71 

York, and told that no female could be allowed to 
cross the military lines for any cause whatever, no 
matter how urgent was the call. This was an irrev- 
ocable order. A great many officers' wives wishing 
,to join their husbands, were waiting around the 
''Transportation Bureau" for the necessary papers 
or '^permits." 

Some of the officers in power were extremely 
rough, and even brutal, in their refusals. 

One lady drove to the office and demanded a pass- 
port, but was unceremoniously refused. 

" You don't know who I am," she said angrily. 

" I am Mrs. General ," mentioning the name of 

a superior officer. 

" I don't care if you are Mrs. Jesus Christ, you 
should not go," was the rough and profane answer.^ 

I mention this only to show the spirit of the times. 
Not long after this these restrictions were removed, 
and teachers and nurses were granted permits to 
enter the department as before. So Miss Fannie 
came in due time. She stopped first at headquar- 
ters, and was then sent in an ambulance down to me. 
The first I saw of her she was standing in the school- 
room door radiant with delight. The children began 
to buzz, so I gave an extra recess ; but they only 
gathered around the door on the piazza and gazed 
at us. 

" Who da him ? " I heard them say. 

" Him's Miss Fonnie," said one girl, with superior 
knowledge, having heard me speak the name. 

'' Oh, but him's prime ! " they declared. 



72 FIRST BAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Christmas came on Sunday, and was a day long to 
to be remembered. I had wished to give the day- 
scholars some Christmas gifts, but my supply was 
very small. I had, indeed, only a box of thread, 
needles, and small wares, given me by one of the 
" Disciples," whose forethought I should have re- 
garded as almost inspiration, did I not know her 
kindly deeds were perpetually overflowing. These 
were my gifts, and nothing could have been more 
acceptable, — to each girl a needle, to each woman a 
needle and a " hank " of thread, and to the men and 
boys, picture papers. But the boys begged " fur one 
needle too," which I gave, to their infinite delight. 
They wanted their needles threaded with white cot- 
ton ; then they stuck them on the side of their coats, 
or jackets, or shirts, and wound the thread round and 
round securely. A few of the boys gave their needles 
to their mothers, but most of them wore them as orna- 
ments for months. 

Since then, through the generous kindness of 
Northern friends, we have had many festivals, and 
valuable and useful gifts for the freed people. But 
nothing has ever been received with more manifest 
gratitude and delight than the first Christmas pres- 
ent of one needle. 

Christmas Night, 

We invited all the people in our neighborhood to 
have a praise-meeting Sunday night in the school- 
house. We wished to make this occasion for us 
all what they would call a jubilee. So we dressed 



CHRISTMAS NIGHT 73 

the house with a profusion of evergreens and gray- 
moss, and illuminated it with many rows of candles. 
Over two hundred black people assembled before 
dark, and the house was absolutely packed. Long 
before we reached the place we could see the bright 
lights, which cast a glow over the trees and far out 
upon the water. We could also hear their shouting 
songs, with the clapping of hands and stamping of 
feet. I fancied that in the rhythm I could follow the 
lines of Whittier's " Song of the Negro Boatmen : " — 

*' Oh, praise an' tanks ! De Lord he come 
To set de people free ! 
An' massa t'ink it day ob doom, 

An' we ob jubilee. 
De Lord dat heap de Red Sea waves, 

He jes' as trong as den ; 
He say de word, — we las' night slaves, 
To-day, — de Lord's free men. 

De yam will grow, de cotton blow, 

We' 11 hab de rice an' corn, 
Oh, nebber you fear if nebber you hear 
De driber blow his horn. 

We pray de Lord ; he gib us signs 

Dat some day we be free ; 
De norf wind tell it to de pines, 

De wild duck to de sea. 
We t'ink it w'en de church bells ring; 

We dream it in de dream. 
De rice-bird moan it w'en it sings, 

De eagle w'en he scream. 
De yam will grow, etc. 

We know de promise nebber fail, 

An' nebber lie de Word ; 
So like de 'postle in de jail, 

We waited for de Lord ; 



74 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

An' now he open ebery door, 

An' t'row away de key! 
He t'ink we lub him so before, 

We lub him better free. 
De yam will grow, etc.'' 

As we neared the house we congratulated ourselves 
upon its brilliant appearance ; but when we entered 
the room the lights seemed to have gone out, the 
darkness was so dense and the shadows so deep. All 
the light was absorbed by the mass of black faces. 

I told the church leaders to go on with the ser- 
vices as if we were not present ; thereupon one of 
the elders adjusted a huge pair of spectacles and took 
up a book, which he pretended to read. He chose 
the " one t'ousand nine hundred and sebenty -eight 
hj'mn," and proceeded to '' line off " 

" Why do we mourn departed friends," 

which we thought very appropriate under the cir- 
cumstances. Then the whole congregation sang with 
tremendous force, drawling the words. 

One of the members made a long prayer, which 
was wonderfully intoned; then the leader asked me' 
to preach to them. I replied there was but one ser- 
mon fitting this occasion, and I read the whole of 
Christ's Sermon on the Mount, first explaining to 
them the meaning of the evergreens and wreaths, 
the cross and illuminations, typical of Christ's life 
and teachings. They gave breathless attention to all 
this, ejaculating from time to time, "My Lord! is 
datso?" 



EMANCIPATION CELEBRATION 75 

I know now they understood very little of all I said, 
but no speaker ever had more interested and atten- 
tive listeners. When I sat down, one of the leaders 
chanted rather than spoke a touching prayer, in which 
he styled me his " dear imperial preacher." 

Then the white friends sang, — 

** Joy to the world, the Lord has come; '' 

upon which Father Major got up and made a low 
bow, saying, '' Dem sing jes' like de mocking-birds." 
By this time the entire audience was aroused and 
and ready to pray and sing all night. In each prayer 
the speaker tried to introduce, in his uncouth phrase- 
ology, some of the passages of Scripture he had heard 
read. At the close each one of this great crowd 
came to shake hands, thanking us for the good time 
they had had. The next morning several women 
called to thank me for my " beautiful preachment." 

Emancipation Celebration. 

The contrabands had a great emancipation celebra- 
tion in Beaufort on New Year's, at which General 
Saxton and all his officers were present. As we stood 
on the steps of the library building and looked upon 
the crowd below, it seemed like a great sea of black 
heads. Some of our friends estimated there were 
five thousand contrabands present. General Saxton, 
" Father Hunn," <-' Mr. Judge," — as they called the 
general superintendent, — Mr. Tomlinson, " Parson 
French," and many others, made stirring speeches. 
There must have been some in this crowd who under- 



76 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

stood what was said — the mass did not. But all 
knew they were admonished to do their best. Many 
were the exclamations, " That's so, massa ! " " You 
is right ! " " We'll do so, sure ! " 

A good-looking negress, dressed as the Goddess of 
Liberty, sang, " In that New Jerusalem," which is 
the Marseillaise of the slaves. As she waved her 
banner, the entire crowd took up the chorus with a 

shout, — 

*' In that New Jerusalem, 
I am not afraid to die ; 
We must fight for liberty, 
In that New Jerusalem." 

The effect was electrical. 

This was not the first time the freed people had 
come together to celebrate their emancipation ; but it 
was a new era to a large majority. At this time 
there were but few, if any, who had faith in their 
freedom, or who understood what it meant. The new 
people who were constantly coming into the lines 
were just awakening to the fact that they were en- 
titled to " life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." 

Two years before this there was a great emanci- 
pation celebration in the Old Fort Grove, where the 
slaves were told for the first time that they were free. 
It was most fitting that such a jubilee should be held 
in this, one of the grandest of " God's first temples." 
The words of the poet Mr. Judd reverberated 
through its arches : — 

"This day is the birthtime of millions ! 
The dawn of the year sixty-three 
Will be marked on the dial of ages. 
The hour when a Bace became free ! 



ema:n^cipation celebration 77 

As if from a sky gray and clouded, 

And hung with deep gloom, like a pall, 
The mists were rolled back, and the sunlight 

Streamed glad rays of splendor o'er all. 

What though in the list of the nations 

We long have been proudly enrolled, 
, And the stars and the stripes of our banners 

Have floated defiant and bold ! 

What though with unequalled devotion, 

Our fathers imperilled their lives. 
Securing the guerdon of Fkeedom 

Forever to children and wives ! 

If yet, on the air of each morning 

The wail of the down-trodden rise, 
And victims of tyranny holden 

Still vainly solicit the skies : 

If yet in the valleys, on mountains 

Made sacred by liberty's fires. 
Oppression still rivets its fetter, 

And sons are still slaves like their sires ! 

But hark ! from the people's tribunal 

A voice sends its echoes afar. 
Sweet echoes — and multitudes hear them 

Above all the din of the war. 

For Justice, aroused from long slumbers. 

Goes forth, and a glad jubilee 
Is his herald most welcome, proclaiming, 

* The set time has come ; ye are free ! ' 

Let us shout, ' We are free ! ' till these islands 

Resound with the jubilant strain, 
And, catching it up, the enfranchised 

Shall thunder it west, o'er the * main ' ! 

Shall thunder it o'er the savannas, 
And down the broad streams, till the sea 

Rolls back like a grand anthem chorus 
The shout, ' We are free ! we are free P '* 



78 FIEST DAYS WITH THE COKTEABANDS 

And shout they did, again and again, and then 
sang, — 

^'My country, 'tis of thee, 
Sweet land of liberty," 

with a force that might have moved mountains. For 
the first time a race could say, '-^ My country — land 
of liberty." 

" The Nigger's Heaven.'^'' 

For a long time Beaufort had been called the 
"Nigger's Heaven," and the ''Black County," names 
which have clung to it ever since. Contrabands were 
coming into the Union lines, and thence to the town, 
not only daily, but hourly. They came alone and in 
families and in gangs, — slaves who had been hiding 
away, and were only now able to reach safety. Dif- 
ferent members of scattered families following after 
freedom, as surely and safely guided as were the 
Wise Men by the Star of the East. 

On New Year's Day I walked around amongst 
these people with Major Saxton. We went to their 
tents and other quarters. One hundred and fifty 
poor refugees from Georgia had been quartered all 
day on the wharf. A wretched and most pitiable 
gang, miserable beyond description. But when we 
spoke to them, they invariably gave a cheerful answer. 
Usually to our question, "• How do you do ? " the 
response would be, '' Thank God, I live ! " 

Sometimes they would say, ''Us ain't no wusser 
than us been." 

These people had been a long time without food, 



NEGKOES ON THE MARCH 79 

excepting a little hominy and uncooked rice and a 
few ground-nuts. Many were entirely naked when 
they started, and all were most scantily clothed, and 
we had already had some extremely cold days, which 
we, who were fresh from the North, found hard to 
bear. 

It was the same old story. These poor creatures 
were covered only with blankets, or bits of old 
carpeting, or pieces of bagging, '' crocus," fastened 
with thorns or sharp sticks. 

Negroes on the March, 

General H. W. Slocum, major-general commanding 
left wing Army of Georgia, reported : — 

*^ Negro men, women, and children joined the columns at every 
mile of our march, many of them bringing horses and mules, which 
they cheerfully turned over to the quartermaster's department. 
I think at least fourteen thousand of these people joined the two 
columns at different points on the march ; but many of them were 
too old and infirm, and others too young, to endure the fatigue of 
the march, and were left in the rear. More than one-half of this 
number, however, reached the coast with us. Many of the able- 
bodied men were transferred to the officers and subsistence depart- 
ment, and others were employed in the corps, as teamsters, cooks, 
and servants.'' 

Brigadier A. S. Williams also reported: — 

** Negroes of all ages and every variety of physical condition, 
from the infant in its mother's arms to the decrepit old man, 
joined the column, — from plantation and from cross-roads, singly, 
and in large groups, on foot, on horseback, and in every descrip- 
tion of vehicle. The vehicles were discarded as obstructing the 
progress of our very long column. Beyond this no effort was 
made to drive away the fugitives. The decrepit, the aged, and the 



80 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

feeble, were told of the long journey before them, and advised to 
remain behind. 

*' I estimated that from six to eight thousand slaves, at different 
points in the campaign, joined the march of this corps, of whom 
something over two thousand five hundred reached our camp be- 
fore Savannah. 

'^ About one thousand seven hundred, of whom one-third were 
able-bodied, were, on account of scarcity of subsistence, placed in 
colony at the Coleraim Plantation, on the Savannah River, and 
plentifully supplied with rice, and occasionally with beef. The 
able-bodied men were employed in transporting rice from the 
islands, and in working rice-mills. Four to five hundred (not of 
the colony), found employment as officers' servants and teamsters 
for the government." 

Many of those " left in the rear " had straggled 
along until they reached Beaufort. Some had come 
by short journeys from plantation to plantation, cross- 
ing from the mainland to the island in old rotten 
dugouts. There was a steady stream of stragglers 
pouring into town day and night. 

Superintendents had their hands more than full in 
finding places for and issuing rations to these poor 
refugees. Those sent to plantations were allowed a 
piece of ground for garden, in which to raise corn, 
potatoes, and ground-nuts. Only the most helpless 
were quartered out, — the old people, and women 
whose husbands were in the colored regiments, and 
the young children. Families were scattered around, 
and at first many of the women found themselves 
aftiongst strangers. This was a sore trial. They are 
social and gregarious creatures, and cannot endure to 
be alone. 

In old times all plantation changes and business 



NEaBOES ON THE MAKCH 81 

arrangements were made at New Year's. So now these 
scattered people determined to get back to '' massa's 
niggers " by some means or other, and great was the 
moving about. The superintendents were full of 
care, and at tlieir wits' end to know what to do. 

Our plantation. Smith's, or Old Fort, was a favor- 
ite resort, partly because it was easy of access, and 
partly on account of the refugee village on "- Mon'- 
gomery Hill." After New Year's we often found two 
families in one house where there was but one before. 
Our superintendent was known to be kind and 
straightforward with these people, and they were 
delighted to work for him. 

'' Tell him us'll give our eyes for him," said an 
old man to me. 



82 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 



VI 



MY PARISH 



" The poor ye have always with you." This was 
impressed upon me all the time. It was necessary 
to inspect my district, now crowded with new-comers, 
to find out the condition and needs of these people. 

I went first to the negro quarters at the "Battery 
Plantation," a mile and a half away. A large num- 
ber of Georgia refugees who had followed Sher- 
man's army were quartered here. Around the old 
plantation house was a small army of black children, 
who swarmed like bees around a hive. There were 
six rooms in the house, occupied by thirty-one persons, 
big and little. In one room was a man whom I had 
seen before. He was very light, with straight red 
hair and a sandy complexion, and I mistook him for 
an Irishman. He had been to me at one time griev- 
ing deeply for the loss of his wife, but he had now 
consoled himself with a buxom girl as black as ink. 
His sister, a splendidly developed creature, was with 
them. He had also four sons. Two were as light as 
himself, and two were very black. These seven per- 
sons occupied this one room. A rough box bedstead. 



MY PARISH 83 

with a layer of moss and a few old rags in it, a hominy 
pot, two or three earthen plates, and a broken-backed 
chair, comprised all the furniture of the room. I had 
previously given one of the women a needle and some 
thread, and she now sat on the edge of the rough 
bedstead trying to sew the dress she ought, in de- 
cency, to have had on. 

In the old kitchen, not far from the house, more 
refugees had been placed. Two women were very 
ill, lying on the floor with only moss and corn-husks 
under them. It was a most pitiful sight. One 
of these women begged for a blanket, but the other 
asked for better food. 

"I cannot eat only dry hominy, ma'am," she said. 
" I lived in massa's house, and used to have white 
bread and coffee, and I want something sweet in my 
mouth." 

She had belonged to kind and careful owners in 
Georgia, and suffered severely from all these changes. 

The dialect of these people was very different from 
the speech of the islanders : they spoke clearly and 
distinctly. 

Both of these women died. Feeling they could 
not live, to my surprise and consternation, they willed 
me their children. In one family there were five chil- 
dren, and in the other but one boy. The old feeling, 
born of slavery, that the white race had a right of 
possession over the blacks, still clung to them. They 
not only gave me their children, but tried to exact 
from me a promise to keep them and take good care 
of them. When I hesitated, they implored me most 
piteously not to desert them. 



84 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Three of these children died not long after the 
mother, and I am happy to say the others were "well 
placed." In time one of the boys was married, on 
which occasion I gave him a suit of second-hand 
clothing and a long chapter of good advice. He 
bowed and laughed merrily, thinking much of the 
clothing, and I hope a little of the advice. 

The plantation people lived in " the nigger 
houses." Most of these people had been carried 
' " up country " by their old owners, but had now got 
back, delighted to see again the familiar places and 
the cabins where they were born. They seemed to 
me, as I talked with them, a superior class ; more 
tidy and self-respecting than most of the new-com- 
ers, — owing, doubtless, to the care and good manage- 
ment of their former owners. 

On the next plantation was a curious collection 
of the original people and new-comers. All might 
be called refugees, for they had recently returned 
" from the main," where they had been carried — not 
fled to. 

In one cabin I found a man in a most wretched 
condition. Years before he had fallen from a build- 
ing and broken his back. In the vicissitudes of war 
he was left alone and destitute, a most repulsive ob- 
ject, a thousand times worse off than a caged animal 
cared for by his keeper. He was grateful for the few 
scraps thrown him like a dog in his kennel. He was 
only able to use his hands, and he looked like a hu- 
man ball rolling over the floor. 

I had his cabin cleaned and whitewashed, and 



MY PARISH 85 

fresh, clean clothes put on the poor fellow. He tried 
in vain to find words to express his gratitude. In all 
my interviews with him I never heard a word of 
c6mplaint, although his sufferings must have been 
extreme. 

" Bless the Lord, missis ! " he said, " 'tain't no use 
to fret about it, for it can't be helpt ; an' I ain't all 
the time so racket about wid pain as I used to bin. 
Sometimes at night I'se so painful I can't shet my 
eye, an' den I look out de doah, up at the stars, an' 
t'ink dem de eyes of de Lord looking straight down 
at me one. An' I 'member what de white folks tell 
me, 'De Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want ; ' for 
in course I is His little sheep, an' I is so glad ! It 
'pears like the pain don't hurt me no more. I done 
forget it altogedder." 

O blessed faith, which can brighten and cheer such 
a wretched life ! Often, in deep humility, have I 
thought of these disciples, poor and despised of men, 
but rich in these treasures of divine faith and love. 

One woman in that neighborhood was called 
''Titty Sugar." She had a little boy and girl named 
Manasses and Auty. 

Another woman, whose husband was in the army, 
came to the school. She said, " I use' to live in town 
with missis in ole ' secesh times ; ' " and she evidently 
considered herself superior to the people around her. 
To my question she said, " Don' know how ole I is, 
but 'specs I isn't a chicken." Indeed, she looked 
quite like an old hen. She was eager "to learn her 
book," and she succeeded very well. 



86 FIEST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

There was a colony of Georgia refugees at Fort 
Charlotte, about two miles from the schoolhouse. 
They were an unusually intelligent and self-respect- 
ing class. 

In my district there were over five hundred contra- 
bands, men, women, and children. All expressed a 
desire to have their children learn something, if they 
themselves knew nothing. But all, from the oldest 
to the youngest, were eager to '' come fur larn too." 

I found but one person, a young soldier, who dis- 
dained to attempt anything, saying, almost with 
insolence, that he had a right to learn when young, 
like other boys ; this was denied him then, and he 
was not allowed to touch a book, and now it was too 
late. This man had indomitable will, with boldness, 
unceasing activity, and great physical strength. He 
was a power with his race. I wished to gain his 
influence for the school, as well as his own good, but 
could never do it. 

One contraband said to me, '' Liberty is as good 
for us as for the birds of the air. Slavery is not so 
bad, but liberty is so good." 

He spoke with great affection of his master, who 
he said had gone to live in Delaware. 

One bright, cool morning the superintendent and I 
crossed the river to Cat and Cane Islands. We were 
paddled over in a dugout, managed by two black 
boys, Renty and Elijah, who laughed and sang all the 
time, showing the whitest of white teeth. 

We were met and cordially welcomed by a middle- 
aged black woman, who was evidently watching for 



MY PARISH 87 

US, having seen the boat leave the opposite shore. 
She had always been house-servant and dairy -woman, 
aujd was intelligent and tidy. The house-servants 
and field-hands were like two different races. She 
escorted us 'Hhrough the town," as she called the 
negro quarters, and gave a clear and highly enter- 
taining history of the people living there. The old 
plantation house had been burned, and no white per- 
son lived on the island. The children had ''learned 
nothing," and were very eager to have a school. All 
the people clamored for this, and begged me to come 
over and teach them. One woman said, — 

" O missis ! us want to larn mighty bad. Us ain't 
had no school, but us'll do anything ef you'll come 
over an' larn we." 

They offered " to fix up " the old cotton-barn for 
a schoolhouse, — that was the best they could do, 
— and to send a boat daily to carry a teacher back 
and forth. But this could not be done. The small, 
insecure boats, on this broad river, which is an arm 
of the sea, with the uncertainty of the weather, made 
the whole plan impracticable. I promised to do what 
I could for them. For a time they tried to cross the 
river daily, but finally many families moved to our 
side "to catch edecation." 

The negro houses on these islands were better 
built and better arranged than any I had seen before. 
Around each was a yard for pigs and poultry, and a 
piece of ground was fenced in for a garden. They 
had a refreshing air of cleanliness and comfort. These 
islands had not been devastated and laid waste like 
those on the opposite shore. 



88 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

One old woman seemed overjoyed to see a white 
person once more. She bitterly bewailed her poverty, 
because she had not something, not even an egg 
or some ground-nuts to put into my hands. She 
evidently mistook me for her old mistress returned, 
and wanted to know how I had been all this long 
time, and how all my folks were. Then she begged 
me for " jest one needle an' a bit of thread to patch 
her old coat with." Her old husband was called 
" Daddy Snicker." They all thought he was not too 
old too learn. 

The negro quarters consisted of two rows of very 
small houses, built on each side of a narrow road, 
which was not much more than a foot-path. The 
quarters the negroes called "a town," and the paths 
a "street." 

One woman who called her boy '' Bone," said he 
should come to school if she '' had to bring him her- 
self." Another woman assured me her children could 
learn well, for "both have very good tongues." 

The history of those days can never be written. 
In each small neighborhood were romances, come- 
dies, and tragedies. 

In times of trouble the contrabands always came 
to their teachers for help and advice. Sometimes we 
were much embarrassed to know what to say or do. 
When I saw their implicit confidence in our knowl- 
edge and sympathy, I found it very hard to tell them 
I could do nothing. 

A sick woman came to me one day, who was suf- 
fering from a serious organic trouble. After listen- 



THE NEW BELL 89 

ing to her story, and getting all the facts, I said, 
''Auntie, that is beyond me. I really do not know 
what to do for you." 

Her look of astonishment and dismay was really 
startling, as she exclaimed, " O missis ! You'na can 
read books, an' in course you knows more'na we." 

Yes, I could read books, but they did not tell me 
everything. In fact, I soon discovered they told me 
very little of what I needed to know most. 

The New Bell. 

I had expressed a wish for a bell for my school- 
house, hoping to bring about a more regular attend- 
ance, with less delay. Immediately a Boston friend, 
who had been in the department, responded by send- 
ing me just what I needed. Oh, what a delight was 
this bell to the whole neighborhood ! The children 
would collect around the house very early, and lie on 
the ground waiting and watching for it to ring. For 
a long time this was a mystery incomprehensible to 
them. They talked often to each other about " we 
bell," and seemed to feel as if each one had a kind of 
right of possession in it. 

" Oh, but him can talk loud ! " said the boys with 
delight. I told them all what the bell was for, where 
it came from, and who sent it. Without consulting 
me they immediately named the school for our gener- 
ous friend, '' Hooper School, A No. 1." 

The children were allowed to take turns in ringing 
the bell ; but this was a privilege only granted as 9^ 
reward for good behavior. 



90 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTBABANDS 

Hooper School. 

After New Year's, which is always the negroes' 
special holiday, school began again in earnest. Early 
every morning the children crowded my piazza. I 
asked them what time they started from home. One 
said, '' At first cra<3k o' day." Another said, '' The day 
had clean done broke w'en I lef we house, but 
I run every step of the way." The children talked 
of "we school" as ''Hooper Bell School." 

The men and women who had been enrolled and 
then waited " to get in their tators," saying, '' W'en 
we'm get in our t'ings we'm sure to come," were on 
hand. It was often dark before we closed our 
schoolroom doors, for the days were short, and there 
was no twilight. We had school on Saturdays, so as 
to keep up the habit of regular attendance. This 
was especially children's day, as the older people 
announced they '' had work to do," which usually 
meant "to take foot to Beefort," to see what was 
going on. 

One fearfully cold day I went to the schoolhouse 
early, and had a rousing fire built before any one 
came. Only a few of the older scholars ventured 
out, and by the time they arrived I was nearly con- 
gealed. It was no more possible to heat the unceiled 
and open house, than it would be the open grove. 
Besides, the smoke, whicli should have gone out 
of the window, blew back into the room until we 
were nearly suffocated. Under these circumstances 
1 dismissed the cliildren and went away, greatly to 



HOOPER SCHOOL 91 

their surprise and regret ; " Us'll be so lonesome ef 
us go away," they said. 

Often our room was filled to overflowing with 
men, women, and children. Miss Fannie had come 
fresh from school, full of zeal, and with many theo- 
ries for the advancement of the contrabands. But 
this was an unexplored field, requiring a line of action 
not mapped out in any book. All attempts at pre- 
cise order and orthodox discipline quenched the ar- 
dor of her pupils and set their wits astray. 

" Attention, children," said she ; and they stared 
hopelessly at her, and not an answer could she get 
to any question. I saw her color rise, and a look of 
intense weariness come over her before the morn- 
ing's work was done. 

"They are hopelessly stupid!" she exclaimed, as 
we started on our homeward walk. " How have you 
endured this so long?" 

''Wait a little, and see. Don't expect too much 
of them or of yourself," was my answer. 

The next day was not much better ; but she be- 
came encouraged. 

'' To-morrow I shall begin over again. I see we 
do not understand each other," she said. After that 
she had everything her own way. It was charming 
to see the welcome all gave her. The brightness of 
youth is very attractive to these universal children, 
who never seem to grow old. 

There was a good deal of rivalry in the classes, 
and not a little good-natured joking and boasting 
amongst the scholars. Every one was eager to learu 



92 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

something. We soon began to see an improvement 
in the condition of the scholars, with a degree of 
order and cleanliness. If any were absent, they sent 
excuses like the following : — 

"Please, ma'am, Pa Smart an' Titty say they'm 
can't come to school to-day, fur dem gone to bury 
one of massa's niggers. Him dead at butcher-pen." 
The writing of this note on a piece of a paper 
bag was evidently the combined effort of the whole 
family. 

A man and his wife stood together in a class to 
read. They were great stalwart creatures, black as 
ink. Their three children were in the class above 
them, having conquered words of one syllable. 

As soon as the parents began to read, the chil- 
dren simultaneously darted to their sides to prompt 
them. 

"Boy! daddy, boy! Him don't know nothing," 
laughingly said Dick, prompting him. 

"Shut you mouf, boy! I only want to catch dat 
word, sure," the pleased father answered, scratching 
his head. 

"Dem chillen too smart. I ain't know what to 
do wid' dem," declared the proud mother. 

Their boys, Dick and London, were the same 
size, and the veriest little ragamuffins that could be 
found. Each wore a shirt and old pants minus but- 
tons ; one suspender, a piece fastened with a rusty 
nail in place of a pin, — behold their entire outfit ! 
One day they had an old hat, minus the brim, be- 
tweeu them ; but this soon came to grief. A gust 



HOOPER SCHOOL 93 

of wind took it off, so they let it go. They always 
stood in the class with an arm around each other's 
neck. The other hand was used to hitch up their 
pants. The one that was reading always stammered 
and hesitated over the simplest words, while the 
other prompted^ knowing the lesson by heart. But 
when he tried to read, he stammered in the same 
way. They evidently learned by proxy. 

Their sister Jane was no better off than they, 
while she was far more uncouth. We patiently 
struggled to teach her to sew, and to bring about 
cleanliness and a degree of order. One day she was 
fitted out with an entire suit of good clothing, but 
in a few days she was just as badly off as before. 

About this time the cotton was sold, and she ap- 
peared in the schoolroom with an astonishing new 
hat on her head. It was a white straw, with a bunch 
of red, blue, and green rooster's tail-feathers stand- 
ing straight up. Her feet were bare, and her frock 
ragged and dirty ; but she walked into the room 
with the air of a queen. 

'' Jane, take off your hat and hang it up." 

" Dem chillen gwine to tief it ef I lef him out 
dar," was her reply. 

Quite different from them was a "Combee" 
woman, who came to school daily with a baby in her 
arms and two boys by her side. They all stood up 
to read together. ' 

These families were refugees. They have all re- 
turned to their old homes on the ''mainland." Pri- 
mus, one of the boys, has become a 'teacher and a 



94 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

preacher, and is the wise man of that neighborhood. 
His mother comes to see me once a year, and tells 
with pride of her boy's position, always speaking of 
him as an "A No. 1 scholar." 

''MirC ChUer 

Babies ! There was a host of them, and it was not 
easy to keep them away from school. Even the ti- 
niest creatures were brought along. Each child had 
its own nurse, and all wanted to be in school. So it 
was arranged that one girl should come in the morn- 
ing and get a lesson, and then run home to mind 
child, and let the nurse come. But usually the one 
left behind would come on with the baby and wait 
around the house until relieved. She always brought 
with her a tin can with hominy for the child when 
hungry. It was not unusual for the little nurse to 
appear in her class as soon as it was called, having 
passed her baby along to any friend who was disen- 
gaged. There must have been some signal from the 
window, for a girl would ask " to step out for a min- 
ute," when the baby-tender would return in her 
place. 

These babies needed but little care ; even the 
youngest would eat hominy when hungry, and then 
go to sleep. I have seen eight and ten of these lit- 
tle black creatures asleep on the piazza at a time. 
Usually the nurse would take off her apron and 
spread it down for baby to lie on ; that was all. 
But, at the best, babies were very confusing to the 
school. Finally, 1 engaged an old mauma to mind 



MISS LIZZIE 95 

them during school hours. Now the little girls were 
happy. Each one brought her charge to Aunt 
Clara's house, and left it on her way to school. It was 
pleasant to look in upon this primitive nursery and 
^ee these pickaninnies sitting upon the well-sanded 
floors, or asleep in the corner. 

Dogs, 

Our greatest trial was the dogs. No colored man 
considered himself safe, or even respectable, without 
one or more miserable-looking curs. These always 
ran around after the children, and darted into the 
schoolroom whenever the door was open ; then some 
one of the older people would call out, '' Drive out 
dat dog," and there was a regular skirmish until he 
was ejected. In vain we talked and expostulated. 
It took time to make the scholars believe that we 
drew the line at dogs. One man said feelingly, — 

" Why, ef I lef my leetle dog, I mus' stay too, fur 
him ain't going to stop widout me." 

Miss Lizzie, 

Now that field-work was over, all the contrabands 
flocked to the school, until the room was over-crowded. 
It took most of my time to enroll and place the new- 
comers. They appeared irregularly, and at all times 
and seasons. 

"Please read me quick, ma'am; I'se hasty. I'se 
got a baby at home," said a big black woman. This 
is but a specimen of many other days. In vain did 
WO struggle to bring order out of this confusion. Ju 



96 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABA^^DS 

this dilemma Miss Fannie signalled to her sister, 
" Come over and help us ; " and in due time Miss Liz- 
zie arrived. 

That was a day of jubilee to the contrabands. 
The children, laughing and shouting, surrounded the 
house, and peeped into the windows. Miss Lizzie 
had to go out and be formally introduced before they 
dispersed. " Oh, but him jes' like Miss Fonnie, " 
said Sally, a sometimes waitress. 

The plantation school had now been united with 
mine, and the room was so crowded that often two of 
the teachers took their classes out under the trees, 
while a third gave oral instruction in the school- 
room. 

In order to teach writing. Miss Fannie had to let 
the scholars kneel down before the benches, upon 
which they placed their slates and books and papers. 

I was much interested in a class of married men 
and women who never got much beyond words of 
two syllables, and could only spell and write " good," 
" books," etc. I devoted the recess-time to them, 
and was much amused by their efforts. They rolled 
up their eyes and scratched their heads when puz- 
zled, and every line in their faces was in motion. If 
any one missed a word, or gave a wrong answer, he 
looked very grave. But whenever a correct answer 
was given, especially if it seemed at all difficult, they 
laughed aloud, and reeled about, hitting each other 
with their elbows. Such '' guffaws " could not be 
tolerated in regular school hours. They joked each 
other like children ; but, unlike them, they took ^U 
good-naturedly* 



MISS LIZZIE 97 

One day some small boys were standing in a class, 
reading. The first boy stumbled over the words, and 
the lesson was passed to the next, who read it cor- 
rectly, over which he chuckled well ; and number 
one, much chagrined over his failure, said in a low 
voice, ''Git out." At this number two was highly 
incensed. Doubling up his fists, he exclaimed, 
''Him cuss me, git out, ma'am! him cuss me, git 
out ! " 

A boy gave a haphazard answer to a question in 
geography one day. His teacher exclaimed, — 

" Why, Raph, how could you say that ? " 

" O Miss Fonnie ! a slip ob de tongue am no fault 
ob de brain," was his ready reply. 

An old man came to talk with us about his grand- 
son, about whose progress in school he was anxious. 

" I tell you what, ma'am," he said, " Billy's a bery 
tick-headed chile ; what you may call a no 'count 
boy. But I wants him fur larn, sure. Do please, 
ma'am, take your leetle paddle (meaning ruler), so 
him shall bring home something in his head." 

One morning two bright and clean little girls, ten 
and twelve years of age, came and took their seats as 
soon as the bell rang. We soon heard the chirping 
of little chickens, and I asked if any one had chick- 
ens in the room, and there came a faint reply, " Yes, 
ma'am." 

"Who is it?" 

"Me, ma'am," said the older girl. 

" You, Virginia ! Where ? " 

" In my bosom," she said slowly. 



" In your bosom ! What in the world did you 
bring chickens to school for ? " 

To which she tremblingly replied, — 

'' De old mudder, him kill all but free of him 
chickens, an' titty (meaning her stepmother) say I 
mus' min' dese. An' I 'fraid ef I lef 'em home the 
rats will eat 'em. So I has to bring 'em wid me, 
'less'n I can't come to school, ma'am." 

Sure enough, there were the three little creatures 
snugly nestled in the bosom of her frock. We soon 
found a box in which they could safely be kept until 
school was over. 



WHITNEY SCHOOL 99 



VII 



WHITNEY SCHOOL 



Our commissions as teachers from the New Eng- 
land Freedman's Aid Society entitled us to positions 
as workers amongst the contrabands, and the kind 
and generous care of these Northern friends enabled 
us to carry on this work. 

Some time in the future, old ladies will tell their 
grandchildren of the first days of the Civil War ; 
when they were little girls, and learned to knit and 
sew, that they might contribute stockings and hand- 
kerchiefs for the soldiers, and make aprons and dress 
dolls for the contrabands. 

There were no idle hands in those days. The aged 
people advised and contributed money, and the young, 
even the youngest, worked. The rooms of the Edu- 
cational Commission in Boston became a great depot 
for all sorts of supplies for the contrabands, upon 
which we made requisition in time of need. 

During my first winter I received a message from 
the main society in Boston, saying, "A family in 
Belmont which has been sending generous contribu- 
tions for the contrabands, wish to work for one school 
and one set of people. Would you be willing to 



100 FIBST DAYS WITH THE CONTEABAKDS 

be adopted by them ? " To this I replied, " Gladly." 
In this way my school became the protege of " the 
Whitney family," and I at once gave this name to it. 
Church friends and neighbors joined with them soon 
after, and formed a distinct Freedman's Aid Society. 

It is now more than a quarter of a century since 
these friends and those of the Church of Disciples, 
Boston, adopted the Whitney School. li\ all these 
years, in spite of the many vicissitudes of life, these 
friends have been unceasing in their care and aid. 

Words would fail to tell the story of what they have 
done, but the impress of their work has been left upon 
hundreds and thousands of freed people and their 
children. 

Sunday-school. 

As soon as it was practicable I started a Sunday- 
school. I wished this to include everybody who 
cared to come. As the freed people had " praise " 
every Sunday at break of day, and religious services 
amongst themselves in the forenoon, I invited them 
to come to Sunday-school at three o'clock p.m., which 
they always call " evening." 

It seemed to me an easy thing to conduct a Sun- 
day-school. Of course there were so few, if any, 
who could read the Bible, most of the instruction 
must be oral, with plenty of singing. 

I started out the first Sunday brimful of courage. 
When we reached the schoolhouse we found a crowd 
of eager and expectant men, women, and children. 
They were shouting their spirituals, but stopped 



SUNDAY-SCHOOI 101 

when we went in, and became perfectly quiet and 
waited. What could I do, and what could I say 
to them? All at once I became positively panic- 
stricken. I had been saying to myself, " It is only 
' the word fitly spoken in due season ' which they 
need." But what was that word, and how could I 
say it to this patient crowd, so ready to listen, and 
with implicit faith to accept whatever we told them? 
The responsibility seemed tremendous. 

Fortunately, Major and Mrs. Saxton and Colonel 
Ketchum and Miss Kellogg, all well-known friends to 
the freed people, had come ''to assist at the opening." 

The colonel, seeing my embarrassment, suggested 

the people should sing again. They all began to 

chant: — 

** Nobody knows the trouble I feel ; 
Nobody knows but Jesus." 

Then he made them a speech, so simple and direct 
that all could understand. He told them of the 
freedman's Sunday-school in which he was inter- 
ested in Beaufort, and asked them to try and do as 
well as their neighbors." To this they assented audi- 
bly, saying, '' We's sure to do that." 

After this the way was easy. Every Sunday our 
Beaufort friends came to help us. It would be diffi- 
cult to tell just what was done. It was impossible to 
systematize the school, as we had seen done at the 
North ; so we worked after our own fashion. Each 
Sunday the school was divided into classes, according 
to the number of teachers on hand. Sometimes there 
would be twelve or more white teachers, and then, 



102 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

again, not more than two or three ; all depended on 
the weather and on military duties. 

The children rarely failed in attendance. In cold 
and stormy weather they were sure to be there ; bare- 
footed and bareheaded, — what did they care? They 
constantly gave very funny answers to all questions, 
even when most in earnest. 

One day a gentleman, who had been teaching a 
class of large boys, came to me, saying, — 

" I have often heard stories of their comical ex- 
pressions, but did not believe half of them. But 
what do you think ; just now I had the boys repeat 
the Ten Commandments. I tried to explain how 
they were given by God to Moses, talking as plainly 
as I could, until I thought thej^ understood. Then I 
asked who wrote the commandments ? One boy said, 
' Uncle Sam ; ' another said, ' General Saxby ; ' but 
a third thought it was ' Columbus.' " 

The older people were also glad to come to Sunday 
school when it suited their convenience. But they 
often had ''some particular thing to do;" or, "some- 
body to see ; " or, they " had a misery in the head " 
or "the back." Sunday was the universal visiting- 
day, and they are a social people. It was not easy to 
supersede old customs. They thought religiously 
they were all right, for they were all in the church. 
They liked to hear preaching. In this way they 
picked up new words to use themselves, when they 
spoke in meeting. 

Early in the year one of my little scholars died ; 
and the father, with one of the elders in the church. 



SITNDAY-SCHOOL 103 

came to beg me " to preach a funeral sermon in Sun- 
day-school." They also asked me " to funeralize" at 
the same time Brother John Graham's wife, who died 
several weeks before. 

I was not a little startled at this request, and 
puzzled to know what to do. But I decided to 
read the burial service, and trust to the inspiration of 
the moment for words fitting the occasion. As their 
language had become more intelligible to me, I trusted 
I was better able to speak to their comprehension 
than in the beginning. 

There was a long procession of relatives and 
" massa's niggers " present, most of them " same fam- 
ily to we," said the father and mother and bereaved 
husband. 

I lined the hymns as distinctly as possible, which 
the entire crowd sang loud and slow in a minor tune. 
A friend from Beaufort gave a fitting address, and 
the colored brethren made long prayers. One of 
these prayed for his wife, calling her his " dear 
pard'ner." She was evidently not " a professor of 
religion." He prayed " Our Fader" to "rouse him! 
rouse him ! Take him to de brink o' hell, O our 
Fader ; an' hole 'im over, an' shake 'im ! Shake 'im 
well, our Fader ; but nebber drop 'im in." 

Doubtless he was more anxious about his wife's 
spiritual condition as we had come " to celebrate," 
they called it, " Sister Venus's funeral." 

Old Uncle Major prayed for '' more uprightness " 
in conduct. He said, " O Lord, suffer me not to carry 
two faces under one cap." 



104 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

The next day I heard some of the women say, '' The 
missis made a grand preachment for Sister Venus's 
funeral." 

No commendation was ever more gratefully re- 
ceived. I had keenly felt my inefficiency as " a 
preacher," and realized how few and dry were the 
crumbs of spiritual comfort I had been able to give 
to this hungry crowd. 

The little girl that died had been a pet in school. 
She was a tiny creature, always buzzing around, so I 
called her " my little troublesome black chicken," 
which she thought very funny. 

Early in the week I went to see Katy, her mother, 
thinking to console her for the loss of her only child. 
Instead of finding her sad, she was almost jubilant, as 
if some great and unexpected good fortune had come 
to her. She delighted to talk of her child. 

" I bin know him was fur go fur long time," she 
said. " You know, ma'am, the Big Massa want him, 
[meaning her]. Him bin a-callin' him fur a long 
time. ' Ma,' him said to me, ' don' you see bubba thar 
waitin' fur me ? ' Bubba was killed in fightin' at 
Morris Islan'. I knew w'en him say this, the Big 
Massa bin sen' fur him." 

I could say nothing, but I thought of that " perfect 
love that casteth out fear." 

Another little girl in the school died. She, too, 
was an only child. I said to the father, " I am so 
sorry you have lost Rosa." 

'^ Oh, we mustn't say that," he answered with a 
broad smile. '' We musn't fly in the face of Provi- 



SUNDAY-SCHOOL 106 

dence. The Massa call my leetle gal, an' him mus' 
go. Ef him call him, him wanted him, an' us can't 
say nothing." 

Unlike these two was the case of a half-grown boy 
who suffered for a long time from a lame knee. His 
father was sure he had hurt it by jumping from the 
" shelter house." I had the post surgeon and bu- 
reau doctor examine him, who decided he ought to 
be taken to the hospital in town. When the father 
heard this he indignantly refused, saying he '' could 
mind his child, and did not ask anybody to help 
him," 

The contrabands considered hospitals as only traps 
to catch the weak and feeble, — far worse than peni- 
tentiaries. 

In time the boy himself begged to be taken to 
town. Then the father consented, and came to say, 
" I give him up to you, ma'am." So I had him placed 
in my buggy, and drove with him to town, and saw 
him comfortably arranged in a clean ward of the 
hospital, and left him cheerful and happy. 

But I brought back the sad tidings that amputa- 
tion was necessary. 

When I told the old man, he looked very grave, 
but said, " Well, I give him up to you ma'am." 

The superintendent of the plantation was deeply 
interested in the boy's condition. He kindly offered 
to go and be with him during the operation, and bring 
us word of the result. Alas ! he came back to say 
the little fellow had died. Who had the courage to 
boar such disastrous tidings to the father? We both 



106 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

shrank from this task, but finally I went. The old 
man dropped his head and leaned heavily upon his 
staff when I told him. But he only said, " Bless the 
Lord ! It can't be helpet. I'll go an' get him an' 
bring him back to his fader's house." 

Afterwards he came and asked me " to f uneralize 
the body." So I went to the schoolhouse with a large 
number of the friends, and conducted the services, as 
I had done before. The people prayed as if offended, 
and sang in the most dolorous manner. I saw that 
something was wrong. I tried to explain tlie good 
uses of hospitals. Then I told them how happy 
Philip was when I saw him. I spoke of his blessed 
relief from long suffering, and quoted, " Suffer little 
children to come unto me." But all was received in 
grim silence, so I sat down. 

Then one of the leaders arose, and in a most digni- 
fied and solemn manner asked, "- Has you got done, 
ma'am ? " To which I meekly replied I had. There- 
upon he began the services over again, and " f uneral- 
ized the body " anew. 

I soon discovered that the people thought the boy's 
life had been sacrificed to some foreign notion. Their 
speeches and prayers were most emphatic. They 
exonerated the superintendent and teachers, whom 
they designated as •' poor innocent creeturs," and they 
asked "- Our Fader " to bless us for what we tried to 
do. But the doctors were '' them as goes about seek- 
ing whom they might devour." Their volleys of in- 
dignation were stunning. When the services were 
Qver^ and they came as usual to take leave, I expos- 



VISITORS TO THE SCHOOL 107 

tulated and explained. They only replied, " It can't 
be helpet. You ain't know no better." 

Visitors to the School. 

There was no day without Northern visitors to the 
school. Most of these were interested, but all were 
full of curiosity. 

I must confess, the ignorance of some of these visit- 
ors in regard to the condition of the contrabriiids was 
positively astounding. The questions asked of teach- 
ers and scholars were amusing and exasperating. 

In this connection I wish to ask why so many well- 
intentioned people treat those who are poor and 
destitute and helpless as if they were bereft of all 
their five senses. This has been my experience. 
Visitors would talk before the contrabands as if they 
could neither see nor hear nor feel. If they could 
have seen those children at recess, when their visit 
was over, repeating their words, mimicking their 
tones and gestures, they would have been undeceived. 
This was, however, but one class, of which there was 
a great variety. Many of our visitors left us encour- 
aged and strengthened by their kind words and 
appreciation. 

Before my school was well organized ^ome stran- 
gers called. One gentleman asked, "- How do these 
children progress in arithmetic ? " I looked sur- 
prised. " I mean how far along have they got? Are 
any of them able to take up book-keeping, for in- 
stance ? " 

At first I thought he could not be in earnest, but 



108 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTKABANDS 

he looked so grave, I replied only a few were able 
to count to one hundred without making mistakes, 
and I had not yet succeeded in teaching them their 
right hand from their left. 

Some officers belonging to the "Tenth Army 
Corps " of Sherman's army, who were stopping in 
Beaufort, visited the plantation school which was 
"kept " in the Praise house, about this same time. 

" Children, can you tell me what is meant by the 
Trinity?" asked one of them. The teacher, who 
was the daughter of a Methodist minister, was re- 
ported to have very liberal religious opinions, in 
fact, to be rather heretical. Doubtless the visitor 
wished to put the children on the right track, for he 
made quite a lengthy speech upon doctrinal points. 
After he left the teacher said, — 

" Children, I hope you will remember what the 
gentleman told you." 

" Us ain't know what him talk," was their answer. 

The same party came to my school. I was ex- 
pecting them, and had examined the children a little 
upon general subjects. All instruction at this early 
date was necessarily given orally; so I drilled the 
scholars from time to time upon — I may say,, politi- 
cal economy. They knew who was president. It 
was not easy to make them understand the geographi- 
cal difference between the North and South. They 
would persist in saying they lived in "Sou Carlina, in 
the State of Sou Ameriky." Imagine my surprise, 
when they had sung and answered a few general 
questions, to have one of the visitors get up and ask. 



VISITORS TO THE SCHOOL 109 

*' Children, who is Jesus Christ?" For a moment 
the whole school seemed paralyzed. Then one small 
boy shouted out, " General Saxby, sar." Upon this 
an older boy sprang up, and, giving him a vigorous 
thrust in the back, exclaimed, " Not so, boy ! Him's 
Massa Linkum." 

Not long after this I went to a colored Sunday- 
school in Beaufort with this same officer, who, being 
requested to speak to the scholars, began by saying, — 

" Children, do you all go to school ? All who do, 
hold up their right hands." 

Upon this all hands, right and left, went up. 
" Good ! " said he ; and then he gave them a most 
excellent address upon education, — so good I trusted 
there might be a few who could understand it. 

These irrelevant questions and answers seem 
strange to me now, but they were true to those 
people and that early period. 

One day, early in the winter, I received a note from 
General and Mrs. Saxton, saying they were coming 
with a party to visit the school, and would be there 
by three o'clock p.m. This was when Sherman's 
army was moving through Georgia. Mrs. Saxton 
knew that in the chaotic condition of things I did 
not like to entertain visitors unawares. 

I thought this a good time to urge upon the 
children to make themselves as clean and tidy as 
possible. To encourage them I gave out a large 
number of wooden pocket-combs which had been 
given me. Then I dismissed them, charging them 
to run home, but to be sure to come back before two 



110 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

o'clock, with clean faces and hands, and their heads 
brushed. They hurried off delighted. 

Alas ! How little I knew of these erratic beings ! 
I was as ignorant of their powers of comprehen- 
sion as they of my meaning. What did two o'clock 
or luncheon signify to them ! Absolutely nothing. 
They had very little idea of what I meant. 

" Teacher sen' we home, an' us is to go back." 
That was all, and any time would do. 

I shall never forget those hours of anxious waiting 
all alone. Not a chick nor a child to be seen. A 
great stretch of rough cotton-fields on three sides of 
me, and the broad river on the fourth. In despera- 
tion I rang again and again my little cracked hand- 
bell, — this was before the arrival of my schoolhouse 
bell, — hoping to arouse some one. 

Promptly at three o'clock the general and his 
party came in sight. There were General Saxton and 
his staff officers, and General O. O. Howard and his 
staff. Brave men on horseback, and fair ladies in 
carriages, and I stood alone to greet them, with no 
school for them to see. 

I begged the general to drive on to Old Fort, 
which was one of the points of interest, whilst one of 
the party went back to order forward the children. 
He met the whole gang hurrying along. They had 
seen the general's party drive by, and concluded it 
was time for them to start. Something was to be 
done, and they must be on hand. Their nonchalance 
as they marched into the schoolroom was exasperat- 
ing after all the time I had spent in anxious waiting. 



VISITORS TO THE SCHOOL 111 

In less than ten minutes the room was full of scholars 
seated in order, with clean and shining faces and well 
combed heads. Each child wore the wooden comb 
stuck on the top of the head like a top-knot, for orna- 
ment, and they evidently felt fine. 

The variety and grotesqueness of their clothing 
defies description. No doubt each one had assumed 
the best thing he could find, no matter to whom it 
belonged. Girls had on men's coats, some of which 
were so big they reached to the ground. Boys had 
entire suits made of bed-ticking and old horse blank- 
ets. The chief thing seemed to be to prove how little 
clothing could be made to cover them and keep them 
on the verge of decency. 

On this occasion they had followed my directions 
to the letter. Some of the children looked as if 
they had ducked their heads the last thing before 
they started. The water was trickling down their 
faces and into their necks. 

One boy had half of his head shaved, while the 
other half was untouched. A girl had put on a long- 
sleeved apron I had given her, " hind side before," 
so as to wear it like a sack. I had written her name 
on a piece of white paper and pinned it on the sleeve, 
and she would not allow this to be taken off. Indeed, 
she wore this name as long as her apron lasted, hav- 
ing care enough to take it off when the apron was 
washed, and then pinning it on again. 

The whole school sat quiet, entirely unconscious 
of the amused and curious gaze of our visitors. But 
they, in their turn, were greatly attracted by the epau- 



112 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

lets and bright buttons of the officers, and the 
dresses of the ladies, which they carefully studied. 

The scholars sang and counted, and answered some 
general questions, then General Howard made a short 
address, in which he gave them as a motto, " To try 
hard." This all could understand. So when he 
asked what he should tell their friends at the North 
about them, they all answered, " Tell 'em we'se goin' 
to try hard." 

At another school General Howard asked this ques- 
tion, and a little boy answered, '' Massa, tell 'em we 
is rising." 

In those early days, as since, there were many con- 
flicting reports in regard to the contrabands. Some 
of the friends of the freed people, as well as some 
teachers, were more enthusiastic than judicious. Every- 
thing was couleur de rose to them. 

One day I saw a "missionary" indiscriminately 
giving out clothing to a noisy crowd of negro women. 
A huge creature, who was known to be an intolerable 
•termagant, was impertinently demanding a better 
gown than the one given her. The poor tired lady 
sat ingulfed in a mass of second-hand clothing of all 
kinds. 

" My dear good woman," she said, "if that don't 
suit you, come and pick out what you like. Take 
anything you want. Poor creature ! You do need a 
better gown, I see." 

Thereupon not only one, but a dozen " poor crea- 
tures " rushed forward to help themselves. 

I expressed surprise that she gave them so much 



TISITOHS TO THE SCHOOL 113 

liberty, whereupon she gazed at me reprovingly, and 
sternly exclaimed, — 

" Do you think these poor colored people will lie ? 
Do you think they would steal ?^'* (with a rising in- 
flection to each sentence) '' Answer me that." To 
which I replied, — 

'' My dear madam, they are human beings. If slav- 
ery produces only saints and no sinners, in Heaven's 
name let us leave these people in their old estate ! In 
all other conditions we find the good and the bad. I 
believe slavery engendered every vice under the sun. 
It is our mission to help these people to overcome 
evil, as well as to enlighten their ignorance." 

Before the year was over I heard that this mission- 
ary reported that the contrabands were hopelessly 
stupid, and devoid of gratitude. 



114 FIBST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 



VIII 

THE FIRST WINTER 

One Sunday morning in the early spring we were 
summoned to our little parlor to see General Saxton, 
and found with hiui Secretary Stanton. 

This was a visit full of interest to us, as the ap- 
pearance in the military department of any friend 
from Washington portended changes for good or 
evil. 

We found Mr. Stanton as genial and unassuming 
as an old and Avell-known friend. He asked many 
questions about the contrabands and about our work 
with them, in all of which he seemed deeply inter- 
ested. He said, — 

'' Do you really think the contrabands can learn ? " 

To which I replied, '' I know they can." 

''I believe so," he said. "You are doing a great 
work here, and T honor you for it." 

He remarked upon the cosey appearance of our 
house, saying, ''You seem to be quite comfortable 
here." 

To which I replied, '' Yes, comfortable — not luxu- 
rious certainly. But we only want comfort." I 



SECRETARY STANTON 116 

was then sitting upon an empty soap-box covered 
with a bit of carpeting. 

"Does Uncle Sam treat you well?" he asked, re- 
ferring, I supposed, to our rations. We had recently 
been cut down to very short allowance, owing to 
the left wing of Sherman's army being quartered 
near us. 

" Poor Uncle Sam ! He has so many children to 
feed, it is not surprising that some are overlooked," I 
said. 

He held out his hand, saying, " God bless you ! I 
am glad I came down here." He Avas sitting in an 
old-fashioned cane-seated rocking-chair. Turning to 
General Saxton, he said, " General, I have not felt so 
comfortable as now since I left home, — no, not since 
I first came to Washington ; and I should like to stay 
aU day." 

We urged them to lunch with us and go to Sunday- 
school, so as to see our people. 

" No, that cannot be," he declared. " The General 
can testify that public office is like a tread-mill : when 
one steps in he must move on, and there is no halt 
nor rest after that. And now the General looks 
anxious to go. He sees me comfortable, so drives 
me off." 

General Saxton began to protest.^ 

" Oh ! I know. We really must go, for I am to 
leave for Hilton Head this afternoon. I shall remem- 
ber this as one of the pleasantest visits I have made 
since I left home. I have been sick, but I feel sure 
I could get well here. Good-by. I pitied you 
when I came down, but I envy you now." 



116 FIRST DAY^ WITH THE CONTBABANDS 

I mention this, as it was one of the bright days in 
our lives, which were just then very full of cares and 
vexations and wearisome hours of labor. We needed, 
too, encouraging words, for even at that time there 
were many around us who considered the appellation 
of N. T. — '' Nigger Teacher " — a most opprobrious 
epithet, not infrequently applied. We should not 
have regarded this had not certain good and well- 
meaning persons sent us denunciatory letters, telling 
us first that we " were throwing away our time " and 
then that we should be ostracized. 

Our visitors were just leaving, when word came 
from the schoolhouse, ''Dem people do wait on you, 
ma'am." 

Upon inquiry, I found a crowd of men, women, 
and children had come to Sunday-school. It was 
then only eleven o'clock, and the regular hour for 
school was 3 p.m. I sent word they had come too 
early. " Oh ! us can wait on you," was the answer 
returned. 

We went to the schoolhouse at the usual hour, and 
found '' Uncle Smart " had been waiting there with a 
"big gang" since morning. 

This old man was our self-appointed '' chief of 
staff." He helped us at all times, and in every pos- 
sible way. Seeing the General's carriage go by, he 
felt sure something was to be done. So he quickly 
mustered together all his neighbors, and brought 
them along to school. When I expressed my regret 
at this mistake, and this consequent long delay, — 
" Oh ! us can wait," they said in the cheeriest manner. 



MEDICAL ADVICE 117 

Sunday seemed to be the day for setting things to 
rights with the contrabands. Then they came to us for 
advice and for medicine. We often wondered whether 
they got this last ready for time of need, or if they 
kept their ills in abeyance. As to the advice, I have 
always found these people were much helped by kind 
and hopeful words, more even than by drugs. 

Medical Advice, 

The winter of 1864-1865 was a sad time, for so 
many poor creatures in our district were wretchedly 
ill, begging for help, and we had so little to give 
them. Many of the contrabands had pneumonia. 
Great exposure, with scanty clothing and lack of 
proper food, rendered them easy victims to the en- 
croachments of any disease. I sent to Beaufort for 
help. The first doctor who came was exasperatingly 
indifferent. He might have been a brother of a 
"bureau officer," who was sent down especially to 
take care of the contrabands, and who wished all the 
negroes could be put upon a ship, and floated out to 
sea and sunk. It would be better for them and for 
the world. When we expressed our surprise that 
he could speak so of human beings, he exclaimed, 
" Human beings ! They are only animals, and not 
half as valuable as cattle." 

When the doctor came, I went from room to room 
and talked with the poor sick people, whose entire 
dependence was upon us. Finally I could endure his 
apathy and indifference no longer. 



118 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

'' Leave me medicines, and I will take care of these 
people as well as I can," I said. 

'' Oh ! we only give Dover's powders and quinine, 
and any one can deal them out," was his reply. In 
time I added castor-oil and painkiller to my stock, 
and then my medical stores were complete. 

I could not, however, excuse the doctor, a man in 
government employ, drawing a good salary with no 
heart in his work. Beaufort was reported to be a 
depot for officials whom government did not know 
what to do with. 

'' Sister Rose " was very ill ; and one Sunday a 
woman came to beg me to go and see her, " fur her 
has remonia [pneumonia], an' I 'specs her can't be no 
sicker than her is," she said. 

I found the sick woman lying on some moss in a 
corner of an open room, with a crowd of people 
around her, holding " praise." This was a kind of 
farewell for her, as they had made up their minds she 
could not get well. They begged me to read the 
Bible to her, although she was apparently speechless 
and could not hear. In the meantime they all talked 
loudly and cheerfully around her. I told them to 
leave the room so Rose could have more air. '' Oh ! 
her ain't min', fur her ain't know nothin'," they said. 

Just as I left, I met good Dr. Durant, the post 
surgeon, and took him in to see poor Rose. He 
ordered the crowd to leave the room, then questioned 
the woman, who opened her eyes, and could hear and 
speak too. He prescribed quiet and nourishment, 
and said, — 



MEDICAL ADVICE 119 

" Rose, you are not going to die. Don't let them 
frighten you." 

" No, massa," she whispered. 

At first the negroes seemed to consider the doc- 
tor's visit as clearly interfering with the decrees of 
Providence. It was a pity to disturb one who was 
so quiet and comfortable. But when Rose really got 
well, they were all loud in their praises of the good 
doctor, assuring me it was a miracle. " Ef Jesus 
Christ hadn't stop an' help de doctor it couldn't be 
done." 

Some women wished me to visit ^' Sister Rhina," 
an old woman who lived in the yard. " Us ain't 
know what is de matter, but her ain't got her good 
sense, an' brudder Ishmael [the old husband] don' 
know what to do wid him." 

When I saw the old woman I decided she had not 
" much sense," but that she was more wicked than 
weak. She was sitting comfortably by an open fire 
wrapped in a blanket ; and when I spoke to her she 
looked at me cunningly, but made no answer. I told 
the women to let her alone, and when she was hungry 
she would ask for something to eat ; and that when 
sh^ asked for white bread and sugar, I would send 
her some. Immediately her senses returned. 

Old Ishmael got out of patience, and exclaimed, 
" I is tired o' this, an' I is goin' to sen' she home." 
Then turning to her angrily, " You'na said you 
wanted to dead wid your own people. Now, why 
don't you'na go an' dead wid dem, I axes ye ? " 

This roused the old woman. " I ain't goin' to 



120 FIKST DAYS WIO^H THE CONTRABANDS 

dead," said she, " an' I ain't want to go wid my people 
nohow. I is goin' to stay here wid missis." 

After this she recovered rapidly, but the old man 
could not forgive her, she made him '^ so tosicated in 
his mind ; " so he sent her off to her own people as 
"a no 'count nigger nohow." 

More Refugees, 

During our first winter, refugees were constantly 
coming into the department. General Saxton sent as 
many as could possibly be located at '' Montgomery 
Hill." At the beginning of the year the best working 
people were taken from these barracks and distributed 
around on the different plantations. Since so few of 
the first refugees were left there, General Saxton 
objected to the name of Montgomery Hill. "It" no 
longer belonged to the people brought off by the 
Montgomery raid." He suggested these quarters 
should be named in honor of Colonel Silliman, who 
had just died in the Beaufort hospital, and of whom 
he spoke in the highest terms. 

The new people were delighted with the new 
name. It seemed to confer upon them individual 
rights before unknown. They brought with them 
great disorder and confusion, and they took possession 
of the old barracks, but did nothing to improve them. 
The old people who went away left dirt and debris 
behind them. They had been promoted. Besides, the 
new-comers were ^^ only Georgia niggers, anyhow." 
They were "low down country niggers," not fit to 
associate with the fine stock of South Carolina. Why, 



MORE EEFUGEES 121 

" their language was different. They said ' pa-a ' and 
' ma-a ' very flat, and they always opened their mouths 
wide Avhen talking, as if they were hungry." 

The clannishness of the freed people was indescrib- 
able. Those belonging to one family or one master 
''ganged " together, and were always ready to fight 
for each other. Little jealousies cropped out on the 
different plantations. All were destitute and help- 
less, but there were class distinctions. Th^ house- 
servants were unwilling to associate with the field- 
hands. 

We found some of the rooms in Silliman district 
not fit for pigs to stay in. Thereupon we tried to 
institute a reform. The women heartily promised to 
wash and scour and clean up as soon as they got 
some " particular piece of work," then on hand, done. 
It ended in promises. 

There were between three hundred and four hun- 
dred poor, ragged, destitute people to be helped. 
Day after day we gave out clothing, with which we 
were most generously supplied by our Northern 
friends. Each garment was fitted to the wearer, and 
with each donation we gave some wholesome advice 
which was graciously received. We assured them 
we should give most to those who were the most 
tidy. If a woman had one clean, well-mended gown, 
we were sure she would take care of~ another. To all 
this they invariably replied, '' You is right, missis ! 
You is right ! " 

Our piazza was often crowded with men and 
women waiting for something. My heart sank when 



122 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

I saw how forlorn and destitute they were. But we 
carefully wrote down the names of the persons 
helped, and kept a list of all articles given out. This 
prevented any attempt at imposition. The contra- 
bands had great respect and awe for " handwriting." 

I discovered that some of the women came to me 
covered with rags, hoping to excite pity. These we 
sent off "in double-quick," they would say, — telling 
them water, air, and sunshine were free. The super- 
intendent would give them soap, and we would fur- 
nish needles and thread. When they returned de- 
cently tidy, we would attend to them. This usually 
had the desired effect. 

They had profound respect for quotations from the 
Bible, so I repeated everything I could remember 
that was appropriate. " He that hath clean hands 
and a pure heart," etc. It had become a fixed habit 
to say, " For you know the Bible says." One day I 
said hurriedly to a woman, "- You know the Bible 
says, ' A stitch in time saves nine.' " Her inevitable 
and satisfied reply came all the same, " That's so, 
missis. Us knows that." So I let it go. 

A friend in the next room, overhearing our talk, 
asked where ''a stitch in time " could be found in the 
Bible. I was forced to reply I was like a German 
friend who always quoted from " Shaakspear or the 
Holy Beeble, I don't know which." 

Next to visiting the sick, distributing clothing was 
the most arduous duty that devolved upon us. 

One Monday night, after two unusually busy days, 
Saturday and Sunday, and six hours of active school- 



MORE REFUGEES 123 

work, I jotted down the demands made upon me 
between daylight and dark. 

First came Katy from '' Silliman," ''fur wash." 
" Please, ma'am, Jane, Fanny Osborne's mother, beg 
me fur ask you fur something good fur face pain. 
Her very bad off." 

" Well, I will send her a piece of flannel and some 
mustard when Fanny goes home from school." 

When I went down-stairs I found a grizzly, white- 
bearded, miserable-looking old man standing on the 
piazza with a bowl in his hand. 

" Missis, I come fur beg you, ma'am, jes' fur leetle 
morlasses, for something for drink. My t'roat so 
bad, missis, I can't swaller noth.'ng." 

" Well, Isaac, wait there, and I'll send you some." 

Next came Edward, an old servant, and our hostler. 

"I come to ax you. Miss Muttoom, fur a little 
coarse t'read — no matter how coarse it am, itll do." 

" Well, Edward, I will get you some when I go 
up-stairs." 

This " well," which I unconsciously prefixed to all 
answers, was like a staff to lean upon when weary. 

I went over to school early, and found Aunt Dolly 
there waiting for me. 

" Missis, I kum fur ax you, ma'am, please read this 
letter fur me." 

"Ask Miss Fannie, Aunt Dolly, for I am very 
busy." 

She went to Miss Fannie, who tried in vain to 
decipher the letter, but could not make out one word. 
So it was returned to me. As I had written the 



124 FIRST DAYS \YITH THE CONTRABANDS 

letter to which this was an answer, by well-directed 
questions I succeeded in making out the general 
purport of the document, which I read off to Dolly's 
great delight. 

'^ Now, missis, when will you answer this letter 
back fur me? " 

"' You must ask Miss Fannie, Aunt Dolly. Per- 
haps she can write to-morrow for you." 

" Well, missis, ef I kin git some paper an' a wellup, 
I'se sure to come." 

On our way home we passed old Ishmael's room. 
The old man was sitting in his doorway, bent nearly 
double, and groaning aloud. 

" Missis, I mus' beg you fur something fur pain in 
the back," he moaned. " The pain is so drefful, it 
'pears as ef I can't stan' it no how." 

" I am very sorry, but really, I have nothing to 
give you. If I had some painkiller, it would be 
good; or even some pepper-sauce, you should have 
it." 

"Well, missis, some o' dem people say a pitch- 
pine plaster is bery helpful, an' I jes' put one on, the 
misery was so bad. I reckon I'll see ef it don' help 
me. An' I knows you does what you kin. Look, 
missis, an' see what a basket I is making fur you," 
having regained his cheerfulness with astonishing 
rapidity. 

When I reached my own house I found several 
colored women standing on the piazza waiting. 

'' Missis, us kum fur see you fur some very per- 
tikler business," they said. 



MORE REFUGEES 126 

^' I am engaged just now," I replied, for I saw some 
white friends were sitting in the house. " Can you 
wait?" 

" Oh, yes, missis, long 'nuff. Us ain't hasty. Oh, 
yes, us kin wait ; " they all exclaimed most heartily. 

When I had time to attend to them, I found they 
wanted to tell me about " poor sick Cumber. Her 
gone to bed an' have a fine gal ; but I tell you, ma'am, 
her bad off. Her punish too much," meaning she 
suffered too much. 

This was, then, the reason so many women came 
together. They wished to bear united testimony in 
poor Cumber's case, for they knew very welh we 
would have nothing to do with one like her. But 
their tenderness overcame our scruples. Their readi- 
ness to help the poor erring girl made me ashamed. 
So I made up the usual bundle of baby-clothes and 
comfortable things for the mother, which they were 
to carry to her. 

Many times before and since have I tried to resist 
the touching appeal of these poor, ignorant, tender- 
hearted women for their down-fallen sisters. One 
morning early an old nurse came to me for help for 
one of these wretched creatures. After telling me 
her story, she said, — 

''O missis, ef you could jes'~pit your eyes on her, 
it would hurt you. Her's that bad off, you mus^ feel 
sorry." 

"Don't tell me anything about her. Aunt Judy! " 
I exclaimed, trying to harden my heart. " She 
knows better than to live as she has done." 



126 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

" In course, missis ; in course ! I ain't say noth- 
ing agin that. But, poor creeter," — with a deep 
sigh. 

'' What is she to you. Aunt Judy? " I asked. 

" Oh, nothing, ma'am, only dey's all massa's 
niggers." 

This was a case that had tried me very much. I 
thought, too, I must make this case an example. 
So in spite of the old woman's appeal, which brought 
tears to my eyes, I said, — 

"Don't talk to me. Aunt Judy. I have said I 
would do nothing for that girl, and I must keep my 
word." 

She dropped her head, and said very slowly, — 

" That's so, ma'am. You knows best. You mus^ 
be right, fur you'na kin read the Bible, an' so you 
mus' know best. But I has to go now to the gal, 
poor creeter! Them wimmins is waiting on me," 
and she made a courtesy, and turned to leave the 
room. 

" You kin read the Bible, an' you knows more'na 
me," she had said. And what does the Bible teach 
me ? "- Let him that is without fault cast the first 
stone." 

I sprang up, and called her back. It seemed to me 
I could not work fast enough while making up the 
bundle of clothing and groceries which I well knew 
were so much needed. 

Her thanks and praise were really humiliat- 
ing. 

^' God bless you, ma'am ! You ain't know how 



MORE REFUGEES 127 

glad I is. I shall run back now, an' all dem wimmins 
will be so glad too." 

All day her words were in my mind. " You mus^ 
know best." What did I know, that I should sit in 
judgment? Absolutely nothing. 



128 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTKABANDS 



IX 



HOUSEKEEPING 



Seeing so much destitution around us made our 
own lives, meagre as they were, seem luxurious by 
comparison. But we were not posing as '' saints 
without bodies," and it was sometimes a desperate 
struggle to keep ourselves comfortable. At first 
there was nothing by which to note time ; no clocks 
nor bells nor steam- whistles. There were two watches 
belonging to our "mess." When one was at the 
schoolhouse there was nothing to guide the cook at 
home. 

The dial of the contrabands was : " When the first 
fowl crow" — ''At crack o' day" — ''W'ende sun 
Stan' straight ober head " — '' At frog peep " — 
''When fust star shine " — " At flood tide," or 
"ebb tide," or "young flood" — "On las' moon," 
or " new moon." Now they add to this list " quar- 
terly meeting." 

But these data did not help our cook to work, nor 
us to regular meals. 

Our first cook, Amy, was a refugee from James 
Island. She had belonged to a wealthy planter and 



HOUSEKEEPING 129 

had been a field-hand. Before the war she was de- 
tailed to cook for the overseer. Now that she had 
been installed as cook and housekeeper, she was much 
set up, and put on many fine airs. 

• In some places the first people who were freed were 
treated with injudicious consideration. They were 
told they were by right the owners of the land upon 
which they had worked so long, etc. 

Whatever sentiment there was in this, we had to 
remember we were dealing with people just born into 
a new life, who had to learn the meanings of their 
new conditions. Like children, they were to be given 
what they could assimilate. 

For instance, I was advised not to ask the old 
house servants to work for me ; for they were in fact 
the masters and mistresses of the place, — of the sit- 
uation they were for a time, if they only knew it, but 
of nothing else. Said my adviser, ''I have no more 
right to ask Cornelia, the old laundress, to wash for 
me, than she has to ask me to do her washing.^' 

I replied that laundry work had not been my busi- 
ness : I came to teach the freed people to help them- 
selves. 

Whatever they could do better than I, in so far 
they were my superiors. In consideration of their 
''previous condition," I gave them my time and in- 
struction, whilst I should pay regular wages for their 
labor. But I should expect good work, and no 
make-believe. 

Amy fell ill, and was as full of whims and fancies 
as any modern fine lady. In spite of the "hard road 



130 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

we had to travel," the situation was ludicrous in the 
extreme at times. Here was a huge creature, as black 
as a crow, coarse and selfish, who had installed her- 
self in one of the best rooms of the plantation house, 
a thing unheard of in " old secesh times." Day after 
day we came from school, cold, tired, and hungry, 
and found no fire in the house and no fuel to burn. 
It was often dark before we could stop to think of 
ourselves, and then we had to hunt around for sup- 
plies, and then wait for our own dinner to be cooked. 
We had good milk and hominy, which usually served 
for luncheon. We could only get bread and crackers 
from the commissary, five miles away, upon which 
we could make requisition once a week. The sta- 
ple articles of our diet were coffee and corn-bread, 
and pork and potatoes. To these were added a 
little rice and some flour. Sometimes we had na- 
tive oysters and eggs. So when Amy, who had an 
enormous appetite, declared she must have "white 
bread, 'cause she couldn't eat coarse vittles," — 
although she and her grandson Will had most of the 
pork which they especially liked, — the scene became 
ludicrous. 

Will, too, was a character. He had been hired to 
help his grandmother and to wait at table. He was 
about ten years old, straight as an arrow, the per- 
sonification of dignity and the condensation of all 
mischief. 

Our cooking was done in an outside kitchen, and 
Will laid the table. Everything for the meals went 
through their hands and theirs only. In vain did we 



HOUSEKEEPING 131 

look after everything ; putting a good supply of 
coffee into the pot before we sent it out, and counting 
the eggs and potatoes to be cooked. The coffee-pot 
would come back filled with a very weak decoction, 
and everything else would be minus its original 
quantity. We laid the case before Amy, who de- 
clared, " It mus' be dat good-f er-nothin' boy Will, fur 
he's de sassiest nigger, an' I'll lick him well fur dat." 

We spoke of these shortcomings in Will's presence, 
but he stood as stiff and unconscious as an iron post. 
He rolled his eyes, but not a muscle of his face 
moved. 

Finally, one night I gave especial care to the 
arrangements of the tea-table ; it was the first intro- 
duction of a tablecloth and napkins into our simple 
lives. I placed a bowl of crushed sugar on the table, 
and then went into the ''drawing-room" for a few 
minutes, leaving Will standing on guard near the 
open door. I was gone but a very short time, and 
when I returned. Will was standing as I left him, 
with his arms folded. On lifting the cover of the 
sugar-bowl, I found it empty. There was not even 
the smallest particle, showing it had been well 
shaken. I could have believed I had not filled the 
bowl, had I not found the empty paper from which it 
had been taken. 

We questioned Will, who declared he knew noth- 
ing about it, so we decided if he could not keep 
these unseen and mischievous spirits out of the room 
he was no use to us. We turned him over to his 
grandmother, who was greatly put out about it, 



132 FIRST DAYS WITH THE COKTRABANDS 

declaring we '' couldn't 'spec' me to bring wood 
and water like dem no-'count niggers," muttering 
something about "poor white buckra, anyhow." 

Just at that time one of the superintendents, a 
Northern gentleman, became hopelessly ill, and it 
was necessary he should have a regular nurse. So 
Dr. Durant brought Aunt Mary Ann from the hospi- 
tal in Beaufort. She was a tall, erect, light-brown 
woman, with unusually fine bearing and manners, 
and great natural ability. Amy was slowly and 
sullenly putting breakfast on the table when Auntie 
came in. She immediately began to courtesy to her 
in the most obsequious manner. I never saw more 
abject servility displayed. 

Auntie surveyed her haughtily, and then said, 
" You here. Amy ! Well, I hope you will try to be 
a good and decent girl." 

From that time, our obstreperous cook was a 
changed being; quiet, orderly, helpful, and pains- 
taking. But I had no faith in her reformation, and 
I engaged at once good Ann Jane, one of the refugee 
women in Silliman district. 

Auntie was an invaluable acquisition to our house- 
hold while she remained with us. She told me much 
of her story before she left. It was extremely 
pathetic — an epitome of parts ®f " Uncle Tom's 
Cabin." She and Amy had belonged to the same 
master, but she was the mauma and housekeeper, 
and confidential servant with both master and mis- 
tress. Always living in the house and associating 
with white people only, she had but few if any negro 



TENTH ARMY CORP^ 1S3 

proclivities. She also had white blood in her veins. 
But " Amy always was a low-lived, deceitful girl, 
who gave Master Paul no end of trouble." 

Tenth Army Corps. 

It was an exciting time when Sherman's army 
marched through Georgia. The left wing, or " Tenth 
Army Corps," marched to Beaufort. A long pro- 
cession of gunboats sailed up the river past our 
place. No one knew at first whether these were 
friends or foes. So there was a regular stampede 
amongst the colored people, who hid away, or locked 
themselves into their houses. The children stood on 
the river-bank and shouted, ready to fly to the school- 
house should danger threaten them. They soon 
made out the Union colors, and then there were the 
wildest shouts and manifestations of delight. 

The first soldiers who landed in Beaufort supposed 
they were still in hostile territory, and they immedi- 
ately took possession of the town, helping themselves 
to whatever they could lay their hands on. They 
were intoxicated with success, and for a few hours 
ran riot. General Saxton placed a strong guard 
around the town, with strict orders that no colored 
people should enter the lines. As soon as the 
superior officers arrived, order was restored. But 
with the army came a great gang of contrabands to 
be housed and rationed and taken care of. 

For forty-eight hours we were barricaded from the 
town, then General Saxton sent an orderly with a 
permit for us to enter the lines, "good for thirty 
days." 



134 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Many funny stories were told of the attempts of 
the colored people to get through the lines. The 
negro soldiers made vigilant sentinels, but it took 
time for them to understand their duties. A sentinel 
was asked one night if he had the countersign. He 
said, " Dey tole me not to let any one pass, 'less'n he 
said Charleston." Some young officers, one of whom 
told us the story, wanted to try him. He halted 
them and shouted out, " Who comes dar ? Halt, 
frien', an' gib de countersign Charleston,^'' 

But they soon learned their duties, and rarely 
needed to be told the same thing twice. When the 
Thirty Third U. S. C. T. was quartered at Old Fort, 
the sentinels were ordered at one time not to allow 
any boat to leave the shore without special instruc- 
tions. One night a boat load of contrabands, men 
and women, were out in a gale and were upset near 
the old fort. The sentinel on guard, with others, 
helped to get them on land, and they were sent to the 
negro quarters to get dry and wait until the wind 
went down. About midnight they started for their 
boat, but were stopped by the same sentinel, who re- 
fused to let them leave " till de quar'masser say so," 
although he knew them well. So the poor quarter- 
master had to be called up and go down to the shore 
and assure the sentinel it was all right. 

We soon learned that life in a military department, 
especially near the camping-ground, had many tribu- 
lations. 

For the month that Sherman's army was stationed 
in and around Beaufort all supplies were used for 



TENTH ARMY CORPS 135 

the military. The weather became exceedingly cold. 
Ice formed and did not melt all day. For three 
weeks we could get no rations from Beaufort, and we 
were very nearly reduced to our own supply of sweet 
potatoes and hominy and milk. 

This hominy was ground between two flat stones, 
one of which was stationary and the other was moved 
by hand by means of an upright stick inserted in a 
groove in the stone. It was a slow and tedious pro- 
cess, but always enlivened by the songs and jokes of 
the colored people when grinding. Two or three 
always came together, as one could not move the 
stone alone. 

One of these primitive mills placed under a small 
open shed was very near to our house. Often there 
were people grinding corn in this mill every hour, 
day and night. Boys and girls would come in pro- 
cession with their " fanners " filled with corn perched 
on the top of their heads. Singing and laughing and 
joking they would wait hours for a turn to grind, as 
each must come in order. 

At night the older people came and ground by the 
light of a pine torch fastened to a post. All night 
long I could hear the whizzing of the wheel and the 
shouts of the people. I have dropped to sleep hear- 
ing,— 

'* O believer, go ring that bell, ring that bell, ring that bell; 
O believer, go ring that bell, ring that charming bell,^* 

the words and the tunes mingling with my dreams. 
When I awoke in the morning they were still singing, 
but it was now, — 

*' Roll Jordan, roll Jordan, roll Jordan, roll.*' 



136 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

All kept time by clapping their hands and stamping 
their feet, the bass now and then calling out, " Start 
up ! " " Don't go to sleep ! " 

One who has not heard these spirituals under such 
circumstances cannot understand their power and 
pathos. I can never hear them, even at this date, 
without emotion. A picture rises before me of a large 
room so bright wdth moonlight that I could read a 
letter. The soft air moves the nettings, while the 
early songs of the mocking-birds mingle with the dis- 
tant shouts of the negroes at the mill. 

I find in my note-book, dated Jan. 14, 1865, this 
entry : — 

** We hear that Sherman's army is crossing to the mainland to- 
day. Are glad that the soldiers are leaving our neighborhood. 
For a month we have been demoralized. 

^' It has been almost impossible to keep the contrabands under 
our care in order, and it has been difficult to ration the new-comers 
and make them comfortable. All our supplies have been stopped. 
It was not possible to get our letters, the mails have been so crowded 
with military documents. We hear there is a mass of boxes at 
Hilton Head ' waiting to be moved/ but no room for them yet on 
the overloaded boats. Truly, our lives have been like a seething 
caldron. '^ 

Olarinda an* we Family. 

The new-comers crowded in upon us. The rela- 

-tionships of the last refugees were more puzzling than 

the first. One day Clarinda from the Grove — the 

people called her " Clarinda Grobe" — came with a 

small army. She began to introduce them. 

'' Only we fambly live on Wordier hill. Dat am 
my sister Wireginny, — scrape yer foot, gal,^ — an' dat 



CLAEINDA an' WE FAMILY 137 

am my cousin Rhiner, an' Lizbeth Blue am my sister 
too. Stan' up, gals, an' show yer manners." 

Most of these were new people. Clarinda had been 
ahead of the others and came to school a few days, so 
she was supposed to have " larned her eddication." 

" But I thought Elizabeth Blue's father was Char- 
lotte's husband," I said. 

" Oh, yes. Auntie Charlotte hab we pa. We pa 
kum over 'fore us did, an' lef we on de main, kase 
de rebs run ma an' de chillen up into de country to 
keep 'em from de Union. Den we pa hab Auntie 
Charlotte, an' w'en us kum him stay wid her, an' my 
ma ain't got nobody now." 

" Auntie Charlotte " had been to school the day 
before with her ''step-daughter Lizbeth," who had 
just "come in," her two boys. Primus and Sandy, 
and a new Blue baby in her arms. I did not then 
suspect her family complications. 

''Becky Ford am my auntie too. Her hab but 
one arm; t'other one groun' off in de rice-mill. Massa 
mad one day, an' say him didn't feed de mill fas' 
'nuff, an' him beat her, an' w'en him raise de arm to 
fend off de blow him jacket sleeve ketch in de wheel, 
an' 'fore dey could stop de wheel she arm groun' off 
clear up to de shoulder." 

Clarinda spoke with much indignation. 

I sent for Becky Ford. She was a quiet, cheerful- 
looking woman, scrupulously neat in her dress. I 
referred to the loss of her right arm. 

" Oh, I can do 'nuff t'ings wid t'oder arm," she said. 
"Massa didn't 'tend to do it. Him was wexe4---^ 



138 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

folks mus' git wexed sometimes. Him do his best 
to stop de mill. Him say, ' Beckj^, I'm real sorry, 
but you is too d — d careless, gal.' Au' him made 
dem wimmins min' me well ! " 

Not a word of resentment from her, only a grate- 
ful remembrance of words kindly spoken, although 
accompanied by an oath; and of gentle care and 
attention. Since then she had " minded child," and 
learned to do many things skilfully with her left 
hand. 

She came regularly to school, and learned to read 
with wonderful rapidity, and to write legibly with 
her left hand. She was ''mad fur larn," as one of 
her companions expressed it. Patiently waiting and 
listening to the others she learned the reading lessons 
by heart. She soon became a self-appointed monitor, 
keeping the small children in order, over whom she 
had great influence. 

With Becky Ford was another woman who was very 
black and very resolute. Her name was Affey. 

She said, " I come from de rebs free weeks ago. 
I belonged to uncommon mean man : what you might 
call right down cruel master. He drove us off his 
plantation 'cause us wouldn't work for him nex' year. 
Us made crop fur him las' year an' den he wouldn't 
give us nothin', an' he drove us off wid dogs an' guns. 
I was boarn in him ban's, but him too mean for any- 
thing. Wen de Union soldiers wur near us some 
o' de young ban's run off to git to de Union folks, an' 
massa ketch dem an' hang dem to a tree, an' shoot 
dem J he t'ink no more'n to shoot de culled people 



OLARINDA an' WE FAMILY 139 

right down. He shoot more'n twenty-five prime han's, 
— nice young people. I couldn't tell you of all de 
deaths by him. But t'ank God, I got away, an' him 
won't git me agin." 

She said she had an " old mother " and '' an old 
husband " and a " lettle boy." She gave a different 
"title " for each. But I had ceased to be puzzled by 
their titles. 

A little girl in her ''gang" looked literally as if 
she had lived on ashes, she was so emaciated. She 
gave her name as " Loiza ; " but when asked her 
title said, ''I lef him (meaning it) on de main." 

A most forlorn and pitiable-looking woman in 
Affey's gang said, "I run away 'cause master too 
bad ; couldn't stay no longer." 

Affey had with her a poor little girl who gave her 
name as ''Pleasant Riddle." Affey said, "I ain't 
know where her come from, nor who'se her folks. 
But her hadn't nowhere to go, an' no f ambly, — no 
fader, an' no mudder, an' nobody : I couldn't lef him 
so, an' I take him wid me." 

We fitted these people out with clothing and gave 
each a piece of soap. The next day they all appeared 
at school, dressed anew, with hands and faces clean 
and shining as if polished. They looked like quite 
another " gang." 

By this time it was generally considered the proper 
thing for all refugees to come " to the yard " to " make 
their manners," to the "white ladies." 

One day a clean and intelligent-looking woman 
appeared to thank us for teaching her children. 



140 rmsT days with the contrabands 

" I was born on dis island," she said, '' but was run 
off by rebs and carried 'way up in de country." Her 
husband, an old man, was left behind. "• I lef ' him in 
de house, an' I meet him dere agin. The chillen 
run away from master an' lef me behind. Him 
carry me 'way off, but I followed on an' on till I git 
here at last. I am mighty proud de chillen can git 
larnin. I tries to larn from dem myself, a little ebery 
night." 

One day a woman came under our care whose story 
was thrilling. She had been cook and valuable house 
servant on a plantation in Georgia. When the 
troublesome times came, and the slaves began to run 
off, her master swore she should stay and cook for 
him and his family. He " would fix her;" so he had 
heavy iron shackles put on her feet so she could not 
run off. In this manner she had to drag herself 
around her kitchen all day, and at night she was 
locked into the corn-house. 

When Sherman's army approached all the family 
hurried off, and left this poor creature caged like a 
wild beast. Her moans attracted the attention of 
some of the stragglers, who broke down the door, and 
carried her along with them, having no time nor means 
to remove her shackles. In this condition she was 
partly dragged and partly carried a long distance. 
The iron bands had worn deep into the flesh. The 
muscles were fearfully strained and swollen. Even 
her eyes were ready to start from their sockets. But 
she never complained. Her sufferings were un- 
heeded. She was hunting for freedom. 



CLARINDA AN* WE FAMILY 141 

" Thank God, missis," she said the first time I saw 
her. She had crawled to the house and was lying 
on the piazza when we reached home. " Thank 
God I'se foun' freedom at last ! Dear bressed Lord 
Jesus ! I'se so thankful ! I t'ink, missis, I mus' give 
up 'fore I git here, but dem people tell me de school- 
missis would help me. An' now I is here, O bressed 
Massa, I is ready to die ef I kin only larn one t'ing to 
take up wid me w'en I go to de Big Massa." 

Her exhaustion was so great it seemed for a time 
as if her new life was to be only spiritual freedom. 
My eyes fill with tears even now when I recall her 
emaciated, prostrate form, her bleeding, swollen feet, 
and her look of exaltation at having found freedom, 
rest, and security at last. 

She was removed to Beaufort, where she had the 
best medical attention. She recovered enough to 
rejoice with her people over emancipation. But her 
feet were never healed. 

To our expressions of pity for her, she would 
invariably reply, -— 

" O missis! 'tain't no matter. I ain't min'. An' 
I is so happy. I is free now, an' de Big Massa knows 
it. An' I kin say, — 

'* ' I want to be an angel, 

An' wid de angels stan', 
' A crown upon my forehead, 

A harp within my hand.' " 

This she said with a chuckle of delight. 

'' Think o' that, missis ! Oh, think o' that ! Some 
o' them school-teachers larn me that. They tell me 



142 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

more, but I say I ain't min' to larn the rest. That's 

'nuff to tell the Big Massa, w'en I sees Him, an' 

Him axes me to say something. O bressed Jesus ! " 

This is but one of very many such stories of those 

trying times. Each teacher had her own experiences. 

But our mission was especially with the refugees. 

Our lives were like the post-boy's. We might well 
say,— 

** Like a shuttle thrown by the hand of Fate, 
Forward and back we go." 

One evening when driving, we met a very bright- 
looking colored woman whom we knew. 

" Us going to well fur water fur the lady what 
bring we up, an' was like a muther to we," she said. 
" Her is come back, an' is awful poor an' sick, an' us 
all say us can't stan' seein' her workin' fur herself, 
bringin' water, an' sich-like, fur she bin very kin' to 
we. Ole massa an' my mudder was babies togedder, 
an' him was very good to we, an' them bring we up 
as chillin', an' they t'ink a heap ob we. Massa set 
great store by my mudder, an' us mus' help them 
now." 

We applauded her for such good feelings and good 
actions, and she left us very happy, singing as she 
went on her way. 



WRITING LETTERS 143 



X 

WRITING LETTERS 

Much of our spare time — if by any stretch of 
the imagination we could be supposed to have spare 
time — was employed in writing letters for the freed 
people. Every day two or three of these would come 
to us " fur write a letter " to some friend whose name 
and title they did not know, nor to what place the 
letter was to be directed. They always thought that 
those who could " put down handwriting " must 
know everything else. 

These epistles were sent to every nook and corner 
of the Confederacy, hunting for lost members of 
scattered families. We had a very large number of 
these newly freed people under our care, and all 
wanted to send greetings to friends left behind. 

Writing letters was one of the first duties that 
pressed upon us in the beginning of winter. Women 
who had husbands and sons and lovers in the regi- 
ments were eager to communicate with them. One 
day five or six of these women came, each with a 
sheet of paper carefully folded in her apron or hand- 
kerchief, to beg me to write their letters. This was 
my first experience of the kind, and I could with dif- 
ficulty understand what they said. 



144 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

It was a very cold day. We had just secured part 
of an old cooking-stove, and had it put into our din- 
ing-room, hoping to take away a little of the intense 
chilliness which pervaded the whole house. 

Before I began to write, I asked one of the women 
to put some wood in the stove, and start up the fire. 
I had noticed they all regarded this black iron thing 
with much curiosity, inspecting it from all sides. 
One woman said, '' Him fur fire ? " to which I nodded 
assent, and pointed to the door. I did not know 
until some time later that not one of them had ever 
seen a stove before. 

The first woman opened the door cautiously, as if 
afraid. Then she carefully put some wood inside, 
and quickly shut the door. 

I was so busy I thought no more about it, until my 
fingers were too stiff to move. Then I told another 
woman to look after the fire, as I thought it must 
have gone out. She opened the door and peered in, 
and then said, '' I 'specs him'll burn, ma'am. You 
jes' wait." And wait I did until I felt congealed to 
the very marrow of my bones. Then I went to 
examine, and found they had put the wood into the 
stove oven. I thought this a good time to give them 
an object lesson, so with a match and some paper and 
kindlings, I soon had a roaring blaze, explaining the 
process as I went along. They were greatly aston- 
ished and delighted as they basked in the genial heat. 

" Us ain't know, but now you show we, us'll do 
all right anodder time. Oh, but him kin scream ! " 
— meaning roar — they said, laughing. 



WRITING LETTERS 145 

These women were from the rice-swamps. The 
first one wanted a letter written to her husband, 
whom she called " My old man." As nearly as I 
could make out, her direction was to " Gibberty John- 
son," in '^ Colonel Markley's regiment, Co. E 
Street," but she did not know what else. She wished 
me to say that she was well, and all the folks were 
well, and she sent how-d'ye and so did they, men- 
tioning a long list of names, as " your father sends 
how-d'ye," and " your mother sends how-d'ye," 
giving each name. She directed him " to say his 
praise," and to answer this letter right back as soon 
as he got it, and to send her some money. " There she 
stopped. When asked " What else ? " " Why, you 
know, ma'am," she said. Evidently to her mind 
there was but one outline for letters, which I was 
expected to fill up. 

All the others were much the same, but with differ- 
ent names. I advised these women to take their 
epistles to some officer in town and get them properly 
directed, feeling sure they would never reach their 
destination without. 

Later in the winter the first woman came again to 
get a letter written, complaining she could not hear 
from her " old man." I now discovered her direction 
was " Jupiter Jones, ma'am." Alas ! her first effort 
was all wrong. I felt sure the " Gibberty Johnson " 
document never reached him. 

I saw a party of young girls waiting on the piazza 
one Saturday morning ; and, as each had paper and 
a "wellup," I concluded they came for letter-writ- 



146 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

ing. To my question, if they had come to see me, 
they replied demurely, — 

''Us wait on Miss Fannie. You come^ Miss Fan- 
nie ; you know best what to say! " they all exclaimed 
eagerly, as that young lady appeared. These were 
love-letters evidently, and they were all very merry 
over them. 

So Miss Fannie seated herself at a little table on 
the open piazza. 

" Well, now, Georgie, you come first," she said. 
"What shall I write?" 

'' Why, you know. Miss Fannie," surprised at the 
question. 

" But how shall I begin ? Who are you writing 
to?" 

''Mr. Wm. Lee, Co. G Street." 

" Very well. What next ? Shall I say ' My dear 
friend'?" 

" Now, Miss Fannie ! What would you say ? You 
mus' be write letters like 'a this." 

" Oh ! but I never wrote to Mr. Wm. Lee. Is he 
your husband ? " 

" Ye-es — no-o," — hesitatingly. 

" Oh, he is ! " exclaimed all the girls. " You know 
he is." 

"Well, I haven't got the tiffity [certificate] yet, 
an' so I sha'n't call him that. An' I don't want him 
to t'ink I care much ef he never come back. Only 
to know I 'member him sometimes. You mus' talk 
stiff, but kind'a easy too." 

So the young lady did the best she could; and 



WRITIKG LETTERS 147 

when she read the letter over to them, they all 
shouted with delight, and one exclaimed, — 

''I tell you, writing-larning's a powerful thing." 

The next girl, Jane, said, — 

" Now, Miss Fannie, I want you to write jes' as if 
you is talking to your own luvyer [lover], an' you 
'specs him to marry you'na w'en he gits home. You 
knows w'at to say." 

The young lady disclaimed the knowledge and the 
implied lover, at which they all exclaimed, " Oh ! you 
is. Miss Fannie. You is got a hundred tousand luv- 
yers," clapping their hands with great glee. 

All these girls were pure black, — a fine lot. 
Girl number three walked boldly to the table, and 
said, — 

" Now I am going to talk my letter, an," turning 
to her companions, ''you mus'n't gap a word. I know 
jes' w'at to say. This is to Mr. John Gardener, or- 
derly sergeant. Tell him I can't forgit him, an' I 
'specs him ain't forgit me. I stan' jes' where he lef 
me, an' I shall stan' there 'till he gits back ; an' ef he 
never comes back, I shall stan' there still as long as I 
live." 

This is the couple Colonel Higginson speaks of in 
his '' Black Regiment," as " John wants fur marry 
Venus." When the First South United States Col- 
ored Troops, was quartered at the Old Fort Planta- 
tion, the wedding was arranged, and John's com- 
pany all invited. But just before the chaplain 
arrived to perform the ceremony, the soldiers were 
called to arms and marched off, and the bride and 



148 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

her friends were left standing, disconsolately watch- 
ing their disappearance. 

The next girl, Susannah, said she wanted to come 
last, and all the girls must go away, so '^ only Miss 
Fannie one " could hear what she had to say. The 
others good-naturedly jeered at this, saying, ''Her 
'fraid o' we," ''Her shame," etc.; but she was firm, 
so they left. 

" Now, Miss Fannie, I want yer to write strange 
to this gentleman. Yer mus' say, ' Sir,' fur I don't 
call him my friend. Tell him he needn't exscuse fer 
writing, for I is more'n sprise to get his lettei's, sence 
he ain't no cause for writing. I ain't know w'at he 
t'inks of me. Does he t'ink I is an apple way down 
on de groun', under his foot, that he can stoop down 
[making a very low gesture], an' pick up wid his 
hans' ? Tell him I isn't dat. I is an apple high up 
on de top branch ob de tree. I ain't fur drop in his 
mouth, an' he can't reach me wid his ban's [stretch- 
ing her arms high above her head]. Ef he jump an' 
jump, till he jump his head off, he can't reach up to 
me." 

We never knew whether there was an answer 
returned to this decisive letter, or not ; but in a few 
months Susannah was married to a bright young 
fellow, one of her schoolmates, and one of her own 
gang of refugees. 

One day a strange woman came, and said, " Missis, 
I come for git letter write back to Savannah." 

" What is your name, auntie ? " 

" Peggy Owens, ma'am. Don't you knoiv me ? 



WRITING LETTERS 149 

Why, Miss Fannie do, for she talked to me one night 
by my door." 

They are always surprised that we do not remem- 
ber them as readily as they do us. 

"Well, Peggy, I am going to school now. You 
will be obliged to wait." 

" Oh ! I can wait all day for you, ma'am." 

When I returned from school at noon I heard her 
story, and wrote her letter, a copy of which lies 
before me. It was the same touching recital of a 
hard experience which we were so constantly hear- 
ing. Driven out of Savannah by a cruel master, she 
and her husband fled with Sherman's army, although 
she had a baby but a few days old. Of course they 
brought nothing with them. 

From Beaufort they were sent to one of the most 
remote houses in our district, where they both grew 
sick and the baby died. All the contrabands, espe- 
cially the last who " came in," were sickly for a time 
from so great exposure, change of climate, water, etc. 

She wrote to the elder of her church, — 

** Father Cuffy Anderson, I beg you to have praise in the church 
for me. Ask all the friends to pray for me, for I have lost my 
husband, — am a lone woman. There is no one left for me now but 
God. I give my best love to all my fellow-servants. The morning 
before my husband, Caddy Owens, died, he called me to him and 
said, ' Peggy, I was in a house last night not made with hands, — a 
big white house. I am going to leave you, gal, but I ain't going 
to fret 'bout you, for we been fight together a long time, and you'll 
brush on till you come to me.' 

** The next morning he said, * Peggy, if you please to get up and 
make me some gruel, we'll drink together once more, and that will 
be for communion, for I'm goin', gal.' 



150 FIRST DAYS WITH THE aOKTKABANDS 

*'I did so, an' when he drink it he said, ^ Thank God! ' an' he 
laid down for a space of time. Then he called me and said, * I'm 
going now, gal, but don't fret. When I git up there I'll prepare a 
place for you.' I cried, 'O boy, don't leave me all alone! But 
he just laid back and folded his hands, and looked up to heaven 
and smiled. Oh, Father Cuffy! he didn't die, but he sleeps." 

I wrote the letter exactly in her own words. She 
was from Savannah, and her dialect was very different 
from that of the people on the islands or from the 
rice districts. I asked if she had a good master. 
She put her hands over her face with a shudder, and 
then said, — 

" Oh ! he was very bad. I cannot tell you all the 
cruel things he did to us. There is no ugly thing 
you ever heard of but what he would do. But I 
thank God for all, the good and the bad. I yet live 
and I am free, and I thank God." 

She had never recovered from her first sickness, 
and was only able 'Ho crawl around." When the 
letter was finished she left me ; but towards night I 
found her lying under the trees near the house, with 
her face turned to the sky, looking as happy as if 
well and resting " on a downy bed of ease." I was 
startled, and said, — 

'^ Why, who is this?" 

" It's me, Peggy, ma'am. I am resting a bit before 
I go home. I felt so weak I thought I would wait 
until it gets cooler." 

'' But, Peggy, have you had anything to eat? " 

" Oh, yes, ma'am ! last night. Katy is very good. 
She gives me gruel. But she is sick, and I come off 
before she was up." 



WRITING LETTERS 151 

'' Well, Peggy, you can get back to the house, 
can't you ? Go to Aunt Jane, and tell her I send you 
for some hominy and bread and tea, and then you can 
go home in the cool of the evening." 

After this we saw her from time to time until she 
went back to her friends in Savannah. We had 
most excellent reports of her, and that she was the 
happiest woman on Port Royal Island. 

Writing these letters for the freed people was our 
best means of becoming acquainted with their char- 
acters and needs and of helping them. We set apart 
two afternoons in the week for this purpose, but this 
was by no means sufficient time for all their corre- 
spondence. I think half the men in the Thirty Third 
and Thirty Fourth Regiments, U. S. C. T., had families 
or relatives under our care. 

The soldiers had made wonderful progress in their 
writing, of which, of course, they were very proud. 
Each letter was an improvement upon the one before. 
Most of these were written by the soldiers them- 
selves. They always asked that 'Hhis letter may 
be turned back to me as soon as possible." 

The women could not get on as fast as the men. 
They had children to care for, and more work to do, 
and but little leisure. The men had hours " off duty," 
and were taught by the chaplains and other teachers 
in camp ; but the women must leave their houses 
and come to the schoolhouse when they wished " to 
catch a lesson." So they brought their letters to us, 
and we often wrote for them until after dark. It 
was extremely difficult to write or read after the 



152 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

lamps were lighted; for every bug and insect ever 
known surrounded the light like a cloud, and were as 
troublesome as the plagues of Egypt. 

One night I wrote six letters, — one from a sick 
mother to her son, and another from a young mother 
to the father of her child. "" And he been born free, 
thank God ! O missis ! when the boys come from the 
wars there will be lots of weddings, please God ! " 

These letters were very touching. There Avere 
such exhortations to constancy, and protestations of 
eternal devotion. I think the men understood what 
freedom meant for them much better than the women 
did. They comprehended that they had rights, and 
this alone would make heroes out of chattels. The 
women sang, "We must fight for liberty:" the men 
had already fought for it. 

Three of the letters I wrote that night were to 
lovers, full of dignity and tenderness. 

''I would give my eyes to see you." 

" Jesus is good. I is sure him will bring you back 
to we." 

" I eat you and I drink you." 

One girl was displeased with her lover. 

" Does you t'ink I'm foolin' ? I is true forebber. 
You treat me as a gentleman, I will treat you as a 
lady. You ax me for money. I send you two dol- 
lars. I nebber been paid for my work yet, an' I has 
no money for myself. But I has money for you 
whenebber you axes." 

One letter I wrote at the request of one of my good 
friends, a poor, broken-hearted old woman whose only 



WRITING LETTERS 153 

daughter had a husband in Colonel Higginson's regi- 
ment. About a year before this he became terribly 
home-sick, and he deserted and came back. Then he 
was caught and sent to Fort Pulaski. That was like 
a death-blow to his wife, who was never seen to smile 
after he was taken away. In time she had a baby 
girl. In the meantime Robert, the husband, behaved 
so well he won a reprieve. When baby was three 
weeks old the chaplain wrote, saying, '' In two days 
Robert will be discharged and return to his regiment." 

That was too much for his poor wife : joy did 
what grief could not. The next morning she was 
found dead with her baby unconsciously sleeping in 
her arms. 

'' Do, missis, please write to Robert," said the old 
grandmother, who sat all the time, day and night, on 
a blanket on the floor watching and tending the baby. 
" Tell him Amoretta did not die, but the good Lord 
jes' took her straight up to hebben to hisself." It 
was a sad and difficult letter to write. 

Thus, as the hours moved along, there came in 
quick succession a constant train of joys and sor- 
rows for us to share and help. We did what we 
could, and trusted God for the rest. 

Just after the surrender of Charleston an old 
woman came to me "fur read one letter" which had 
just arrived. When I opened these letters I always 
looked first to see from whom they came. This said, 
" My dear mother." 

" Well, Sarah, Avho do you think wrote this?" 

" I 'spects it's William, ma'am. Him's wid de sol- 
diers in Virginny." 



154 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

" But have you no other sons ? " 

''You 'member, ma'am, I bin telling you de oder 
day de rebels catch my biggest boy an' hang him for 
a spy. An' Martin, the next boy, been sell off by de 
secesh, an' de Lord knows where him is ef him living." 

" This letter is from Martin, Sarah." 

The old woman dropped her head upon her knees, 
and began to rock forward and back, exclaiming, — 

" T'ank ye, good Massa ! T'ank ye, good Massa ! 

blessed Jesus ! You is berry good, berry good ! 

1 t'ank ye, good Massa ! I t'ank ye ! " 

At first I was too much touched to read the letter. 
Then I said, — 

'' Sarah, will you hear now what he says ? " 

'' Oh ! I is satisfied, ma'am. Martin is alive. But 
read de letter, please, missis." 

It was the same story, daily and hourly repeated. 
As soon as our troops took possession of Charleston 
the slave boy, now a free man, turned with his whole 
heart and soul to his wife and child and his mother. 
One of "- Massa's niggers " came along and told him 
where they were. 

These people had a marvellous way of tracing out 
the missing members of their families, and inflexible 
perseverance in hunting them up. 

" Where is Martin's wife ? " I asked. 

'' Don't you know, ma'am ? She is Jane Ferguson." 

" Why, Sarah ! Jane has taken another husband ! " 
I exclaimed. 

She looked earnestly at me. 

" Never mind, ma'am. Jane b'longs to Martin, an' 



WAITING LETTEES 155 

she'll go back to him. Martin been a sickly boy, an' 
de secesh treat him too bad, an' we never 'specs him 
to lib t'rough all." 

Just then Jane came in. 

" Bless de Lord, gal ! " said Sarah. " Martin is 
alive an' coming back to we." 

" What will you do now, Jane ? " I asked. " You 
have got another husband." 

She drew herself up, and said deliberately, — 

" Martin Barnwell is my husband, ma'am. I am 
got no husband but he. Wen de secesh sell him off 
we nebber 'spect to see each odder more. He said, 
' Jane take good care of our boy, an' w'en we git to 
hebben us will lib togedder to nebber part no more.' 
You see, ma'am, w'en I come here I had no one to 
help me." 

'' That's so," chimed in the mother. "I tell you, 
missis, it been a hard light for we." 

'' So Ferguson come," continued Jane, " an' axed 
me to be his wife. I told him I never ''spects Mar- 
tin could come back, but if he did he would be my 
husband above all others. An' Ferguson said, ' That's 
right, Jane ; ' so he cannot say nothing, ma'am.'' 

"But supposing he does say something, and is not 
willing to give you up, Jane ? " 

" Martin is my husband, ma'am, an' the father of 
my child ; and Ferguson is a man. He will not com- 
plain. And we had an understanding, too, about it. 
And now, please, ma'am, to write a letter for me to 
Ferguson, — he was with the Thirty Fourth Regi- 
ment. I want to treat the poor boy well." 



156 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

I wrote the letter word for word as she dictated. 
It was clear and tender, but decided. Ferguson was 
not quite so ready to give her up as she expected. 
He wrote, — 

" Martin has not seen you for a long time. He 
cannot think of you as I do. O Jane ! do not go to 
Charleston. Come to Jacksonville. I will get a 
house and we will live here. Never mind what the 
people say. Come to me, Jane." 

I read the letter to her. It was evidently written 
by the chaplain, who sympathized with his client. 

'^ Will you please, ma'am, write a letter yourself 
for me ? Tell him, I say I'm sorry he finds it so hard 
to do his duty. But as he does, I shall do mine, an' 
I shall always pray de Lord to bless him." 

'' Shall I sign your name, Jane ? " 

" No, ma'am. I shall never write to him no more. 
But tell him I wish him well." 

Soon after this Martin came and claimed his wife 
and child, who gladly clung to him. 

A woman brought her baby boy for me to see, — a 
fine child. I asked what she had named him. She 
said the grandmother had called him James for the 
father. So I suggested she should add Freeman to 
it. The father, who was in the Thirty Fourth Regi- 
ment, was very proud of his name, and he wrote, — 
'' Take good care of our boy, for he is born free, — 
free as the birds, free as the wind, and free as the 
sun, and his name is Freeman. That just suits me. 
Thank God ! He shall always be a free man." 



THE MARKIAGE CEREMONY 157 



XI 

THE MARRIAGE CEREMONY 

An order was issued, early in the new year, that 
all persons living together as husband and wife 
should have the marriage ceremony performed, and 
get a certificate. 

In the days of slavery the marriage relation 
amongst the negroes was rarely held too sacred to be 
broken by the wishes of the masters or mistresses. 
Indeed, it was not easy to find any rights of the 
negroes that the whites were bound to respect. All 
the people in our district had lived together accord- 
ing to the old slave code, as husbands and wives. 

Amongst the first persons who came forward to be 
married were Smart and Mary Washington, who had 
lived together over forty years. They were very 
happy when they walked away together side by side, 
for the first time endowed with the honorable title of 
husband and wife. Smart chuckled well when we 
congratulated him, saying, — 

" Him's my wife for sartin, now. Ef the ole hen 
run away, I shall cotch him sure." 

We thought there was no danger of good Aunt 
Mary's running away after so many years of faithful 
service? 



158 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Others came forward to have the ceremony per^ 
formed, and get the certificate, for which they had 
profound respect. At one time a father and mother, 
and a daughter and her lover, were married by the 
same minister. It was touching to see the eager, 
expectant look on the faces of the old couples. 
They were aiming for something higher and better, 
of which they had as yet but a dawning conception, 
— only a glimmer of light. 

One evening four couples came to the schoolhouse 
to meet '' the parson " who was to perform the mar- 
riage ceremony for them. They came straight from 
the field, in their working-clothes ; the women, as 
was their custom, walking behind the men. When 
told to join their right hands, they were greatly puz- 
zled, although we had instructed them beforehand. 
One gave the right, and the other the left hand. 

When they left the schoolhouse the women all took 
their places by the side of the men, showing that they 
felt they were equal in the eyes of the law. 

Some months after this we were passing the " negro 
quarters," and one of these men brought out a very 
young and plump baby for us to see, saying they had 
had " a heap of children, but it seemed as if none 
could live until they got married, and got their cer- 
tificate. But dis gal is boun' to live," he said. 

She did live, and became an intelligent and highly 
respected woman. 

Within a few years some children of this first wed- 
ding party were married in this same schoolhouse, 
but under very different circumstances. They had 



THE MARRIAGE CEREMONY 159 

made ample arrangements ; being " fashionably " 
dressed, and having issued invitations for a large re- 
ception of their colored friends. 

A man and woman went to Chaplain Woodworth, 
in Beaufort, and were married. The man paid his 
dollar and got his certificate, and they left well pleased. 
But in a day or two he returned and wanted the 
chaplain to take back his certificate, and give him 
back his dollar, " 'cause he didn't like that woman 
nohow." He was greatly crestfallen when told he 
could not back out now, but must stick to his 
bargain. 

Chaplain Woodworth also married Mingo and 
Rachel. In a little while Mingo came back, saying, — 

" Now, parson, I want either a paper to make him 
come and lib wid me, or to have her pit in jail, or I 
wants a pass to marry another wife." 

The chaplain asked which he would rather have. 

"Well, you might as well give me the pass, I 
reckon," was his answer. 

He was told he must go to the Freedman's Bureau 
to get his affairs settled. 

In a few days he came again. 

" Look here, parson," he said, " that gal's not only 
tuck herself off, but she tuck all my property too." 

He was asked how much property he had. 

" Why, I had two head o' duck " (counting them off 
on his fingers), " t'ree head o' chicken, an' a hominy 
pot; an' now I ain't got nothin'." 

Mr. Woodworth told him again he must go to the 
Freedman's Bureau and see what they could do for 



160 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTKABANDS 

him. We never knew whether he got back his prop- 
erty or not, but his wife never returned. 

When the colored regiments were " mustered out," 
and the soldiers returned home, the girls immediately 
made their preparations to be married. So they came 
to Miss Fannie and Miss Lizzie for advice and help. 
They all had the merriest time hunting out bits of 
lace and ribbons and artificial flowers and fitting 
them to the expectant brides. 

It was now especially desirable to have the mar- 
riage relations established, and some fixed laws that 
should hold both parties. 

In old times families of slaves had been broken up 
by unfortunate circumstances or by the will of the 
owners. Husbands and wives thus separated had 
been advised, and in some instances forced, to form 
new relations. Now that all things had become un- 
settled again, these people returned to their old part- 
ners. This was often a great disappointment, as we 
have seen, to those newly allied, and resulted in a 
general upsetting of affairs. 

Many touching appeals were made to us to settle 
the difficulties arising from these changes. We were 
often sorely perplexed. All our preconceived ideas 
of propriety and the fitness of things were set at 
naught. Sometimes two men claimed the same 
woman, whilst she coquetted not a little, evidently 
disposed to take the one that bid the highest. But 
this rarely if ever happened where there were chil- 
dren. 

One day Uncle Kit came to me greatly troubled, 



THE MARRIAGE CEREMONY 161 

His wife Tina's first husband, who had been sold 
away from her "in the old secesh times," had come 
back and claimed her. "An' I set my eyes by her," 
said the poor fellow. 

Tina had been brought up on another plantation to 
which husband number one had now returned. But 
Kit had belonged to the Smith estate. So the wife 
went from one place to the other, spending a few 
weeks alternately with each husband. She had no 
children, so had nothing to bind her more to one than 
the other. 

Kit came to ask me to write a letter to Tina and 
beg her to come back and stay with him. " Fur him 
want to come here to lib, but him shame," said poor 
Kit. He was ready to forgive all her waywardness, 
"fur nobody can tell, ma'am, what I gone through 
with fur that woman. I married her for love, an' I 
lub her now more an' better than I lub myself." 

We thought such devotion should be rewarded. I 
expostulated with Tina over her way of living, and 
finally threatened to ignore her altogether. She 
seemed surprised, but replied, " I had Sam first, but 
poor brother Kit is all alone." 

Finally she decided to drop Sam and cling to Kit, 
" fur he, poor fellow, ain't got nobody but me," she 
said. 

They lived happily together for many years. Then 
Tina died, and Kit refused to allow any person to 
live in the house with him, telling me he never liked 
confusion. And folks would talk, and " I don't want 
Tina to think I would bring shame upon she," he said. 



162 FIRST DAYS WITH THE COKTRABANDS 

Sophie, a brown woman, was our second girl for a 
time. She had a house about a mile away where she 
lived with her husband and step-daughter, and she 
always went home at night and returned in the morn- 
ing. 

One stormy night I did not think it fitting for her 
to go home. So I gave her some blankets and told 
her to lie on the bit of carpet before my sitting-room 
fire. At bedtime I found her sound asleep, sitting 
on the floor with her head lying back resting on a 
low wooden box. One hand was under her head and 
the other hung down by her side. Altogether it 
seemed to me a most uncomfortable position, and yet 
she slept as calmly as a baby. I tried to rouse her, 
but found she liked her present position best. The 
next morning I overheard her praising her resting- 
place last night. '' It was so still an' easy like" 

Her husband came ''to make me sensible," how 
glad he was that I did not let Sophie come out " in 
such a powerful rain." 

" Me an' my gal Betsey can git along. But her 
has just come from her mother." 

I expressed surprise at this, not knowing the first 
wife was living. He said, " Oh yes, Betsey's mother 
is living ; " that he was a carpenter and all the 
white folks ''expected" (respected) him and asked 
his master to let him work for them. It appeared 
they couldn't do without him. His wife belonged 
to one man and he belonged to another. 

He was sent away for a long time, and his wife 
thought he was sold, so she took another husband. 



THE MARRIAGE CEREMONY 163 

When he was told this, he said '' It's the same as if a 
dagger was stuck through me. I would never receive 
[deceive] her, an' I thought she wouldn't receive me. 
She would leave the other man and come back to 
me, but I consider she had done that which is un- 
lawful, an' I didn't want the church to be defiled 
through me." 

I asked if he was anxious for freedom. "Not 
'zactly ma'am. Ef a man's shoes pinch him he'll 
pull 'em off. But my shoes didn't pinch me. I had 
a good, kind master who was a Christian man." 

" Auntie Charlotte's " husband was first sold away, 
and then went into the army. So she took a second 
husband. When the regiment was disbanded num- 
ber one returned and claimed his wife. She had two 
boys belonging to him, and a girl baby belonging to 
number two. The poor woman was in a sore strait. 
Both men claimed their offspring. She knew what- 
ever way she turned she must give up part of her 
children. 

We sometimes hear that the slave mothers lacked 
natural affection. On the contrary, I have thought 
the maternal feeling was intensified in them. Chil- 
dren were all they had in the world that they could 
ever call their own. Whether with them or sepa- 
arated, they could say, ''My child; him is mine." 

I knew an old slave woman in central Georgia, 
before the war. She had been sold from her Vir- 
ginia home thirty or forty years previous, and she 
had never heard a word from there since. 

As soon as she heard I had travelled through Vir- 



164 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

ginia, she came to me to know if I had ever seen her 
'' little gal." With tears streaming down her face, 
she told me what a '' store she set by that little 
child." And she begged me to look out for her 
when I went back. She was sure I should know 
her, she '' was such a pretty little gal." 

It was useless to tell her the girl was now a 
woman, and doubtless had children of her own. She 
always had been and always would be her "baby." 

When the time came for me to return North, the 
old woman brought me two hard-boiled eggs and 
three sweet potatoes, roasted in the ashes, and a 
handful of parched ground-nuts, all tied in a bit of 
handkerchief. She evidently intended these as a 
bribe, as she begged me again and again to " look 
out for her little gal." 

There was another slave woman at the same place, 
who was young and strong — a " prime hand." She 
always kept by herself, and was the saddest person I 
ever saw. She too had been sold to a " trader " to 
pay ''a gambling debt." Then she was brought 
from Virginia and sold again. She had also left a 
little child behind her. " And I cannot sleep nights," 
she said. ''Every time I shut my eyes I hear my 
baby cry, ' Take me wid you, mammy ; take me wid 
you ! ' I put my fingers in my ears, but all the time 
I hear him just the same, crying, ' Take me wid you, 
mammy ; take me wid you ! ' " 

An old colored man lived on the next plantation, 
who had been a negro-driver in old times, and was 
always a leader and director amongst his people. 



THE MARBIAGE CEREMONY 165 

His wife was very ill, so she sent to beg me to come 
and see her. I found a fine-looking negress, one of 
her neighbors, with her. 

''Missis," said the sick woman, " I sends fur you 
'cause I want you to stan' witness fur me. I ain't 
got long for stay here, you see. I is goin' shortly, 
an' I can't lef poor Billy here all alone. He can't 
fend fur hisself nohow, an' he can't live alone. So 
I axes sister Hagar to come here and tuck my place, 
an' min' Billy, an' the house, an' the dumb creeturs 
fur me. I gives Billy to she. Ef you tell 'em they 
will know it's all right. An' do please, missis, put 
this down in handwriting, so they shall not be toxi- 
cated about, an' contemptuous by the people, when 
I is gone. Now, missis, will you tuck my hand 
once more, fur I is going?" 

Billy and Hagar stood by the bedside, respect- 
fully listening to this long speech. Now and then 
they would ejaculate, '' That's so." " You is right, 
sister," etc. 

I am confident the sick woman considered this a 
marriage ceremony honorable and legitimate. The 
same night she died, " such a pretty death," they 
said, at rest and at peace with the world. 

Poor Hagar was not a widow in fact, although 
her husband had deserted her and gone back to the 
mainland seven years before, and she had never seen 
him since. 

The laws of South Carolina do not permit a di- 
vorce, so she was not legally free. I had supposed that 
seven-years' separation would be equal to a divorce. 



166 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

The church people thought differently and refused 
to sanction the marriage of this old couple, and the 
minister refused to perform the ceremony. 

Tliey appealed to me again and again to help them 
out of this trouble. An envoy was sent " to the 
main " to confer with husband number first, who 
lived there with another wife, and had several chil- 
dren. 

" Why, I gives my hearty consent that Billy have 
Hagar, an' I will put my mark on hand writ for she 
to marry agin, ef you want. Tell Billy I has an- 
other wife an' a big gang o' chillen, an' he is wel- 
come to Hagar." 

So a bill of renunciation was drawn up, to which 
he affixed his mark. But all was of no avail. 

Then the family begged me to see the colored 
minister and intercede for them. So I appointed an 
interview. A colored " elder " came with the divine. 
The parson was courteous and conciliatory, but his 
companion was decidedly antagonistical. He mo- 
nopolized the conversation, evidently afraid his 
superior would be won over. One of his first ques- 
tions was, ''Do you ever read your Bible ? If you do, 
tell me if you ever found anything in it to fit such 
a case as this." And ''Does it not say 'Wives sub- 
mit yourselves to your husbands ' ? " 

I soon decided it was useless to talk with such 
man, and closed the interview. 

Billy and Hagar were never married. They lived 
together, and Hagar took good care of the old man, 
as she promised to do. They were cut off from the 
church, which was a great grief to the old man. 



THE MARRIAGE CEREMOKY 167 

" Somehow I can't hold up my head as I could 
once, fur I has been a powerful leader in my time," 
he said dejectedly. 

The old man's wife died early in the year. In 
November, 1865, the provisional government of South 
Carolina decided " that the relation of husband and 
wife was fully established and recognized. The 
evidence of its existence was declared to be cohabi- 
tation and reputation, or acknowledgment by the 
respective parties. Those who now live as such 
are held to be in legal marriage. All children 
heretofore born are held to be legitimate." 

'' Hereafter this which the law regards as a civil 
contract is required to be duly solemnized, either by 
a minister of the gospel, the district judge, a magis- 
trate, or any other judicial officer." 

In vain did we quote this law to the colored elders. 
Their only reply was, '' Do you ever read your Bible ? " 



168 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 



XII 

EVACUATION OF SAVANNAH. — OUR VISIT THERE 

Dec. 24, 1864, General Sherman sent the follow- 
ing despatch to President Lincoln : - — 

** I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, 
with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, 
and also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.^* 

The news of the possession of this place by our 
troops was received by the freed people with many 
manifestations of delight. The former owner of Old 
Fort owned also a rice plantation on Savannah River, 
and all the people in our immediate neighborhood 
had relatives still there. A few of the young people 
had slipped away and reached their friends at Old 
Fort, but the majority were left behind. 

Early in February we went to Savannah with 
General and Mrs. Saxton, and members of the gen- 
eral's staff, and other officers. How it had become 
known that we were to make this trip I cannot tell, 
but we found a crowd of our own colored people on 
the boat when we went aboard. To our exclamations 
of surprise they said with glee, — 

" Oh, we're goin' too, fur us has frien's there." 



OUK YISIT TO SAVANNAH 169 

We found the city crowded with contrabands who 
were in a most pitiable condition. Nearly all the 
negroes who had lived there before the war had gone 
away. A large number went on with the army ; 
those left were the stragglers who had come in from 
the " sand hills " and low lands. The people from 
the plantations too had rushed into the city as soon 
as they knew the Union troops were in possession. 

A crowd of poor whites had also congregated there. 
All were idle and destitute. The whites regarded 
the negroes as still a servile race, who must always 
be inferior by virtue of their black skins. The 
negroes felt that emancipation had lifted them ofit of 
old conditions into new relations with their fellow 
beings. They were no longer chattels, but independ- 
ent creatures with rights and privileges like their 
neighbors. 

The bill for the establishment of a Freedman's 
Bureau in connection with the War Department passed 
Congress just at the close of the session of 1864. 

Early in 1865 Congress passed an act establishing 
a Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees, and Abandoned 
Lands. This was to be independent of the military. 
In the spring, Major-General O. O. Howard was 
appointed head of this bureau. 

Order had been restored in the city at the time of 
our visit, but it required much deliberation and wise 
planning to bring about systematized and concerted 
action between the military and bureau officers. The 
business of the department had been transacted by 
the military and disbursing officers, 



170 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

The contrabands were dissatisfied because the 
whites were rationed and protected, while they were 
destitute and neglected. In some quarters they were 
becoming clamorous for help. 

General Saxton, who was still military governor of 
these States, was sorely tried by what he saw and 
heard. He resolutely set to work to improve these 
conditions. The officers of his staff were with him 
in sentiment, and aided him with zeal and alacrity. 
Good men and women, armed with Bibles and spell- 
ing-books, also came and began a work of unparalleled 
usefulness amongst the contrabands. 

Tte freedmen had got the impression that the 
abandoned lands of their old owners were to be 
divided amongst them. This impression arose from 
the talk they had heard around them by the white 
and colored soldiers. 

It was absolutely necessary that the city should be 
relieved of this irresponsible crowd. As far as it was 
possible the " freed people " were sent to the old 
plantations and instructed and encouraged to make 
contracts with the owners and lessees of the lands. 

A gang of these people went back with us to join 
their friends in our district. We were as much puz- 
zled to place these wanderers as the officers had been. 

May 15, General Gillmore, who was in command 
of the department, issued a proclamation defining the 
policy and wishes of the general government towards 
the people of these States. He said, — 

*'Itis deemed sufficient to announce that the people of the 
black race are free citizens of the United States; that it is th^ 



SURRENDER OF CHARLESTON 171 

fixed intention of a wise and beneficent government to protect 
them in the enjoyment of their freedom and the fruits of their 
industry.'* . . . But *' neither idleness nor vagrancy will be tol- 
erated, and the government will not extend pecuniary aid to any 
persons, whether white or black, who are unwilling to help them- 
selves.'* 

It is not surprising that some of the freedmen 
supposed that liberty and emancipation from labor 
were synonymous ; but as soon as they knew what 
was expected of them, they were ready to make con- 
tracts with the superintendents on the plantations. 



Surrender of Charleston, 

Events now crowded upon us in quick succession. 

Jan. 13, 1865, General Howard's troops made ad- 
vance from Beaufort to Pocotaligo bridge, which was 
forty-nine miles from Savannah and fifty-five miles 
from Charleston. 

The booming of the cannon during the engagement 
could be heard in Beaufort. All the citizens of the 
town were detailed for guard duty. 

The freed people on our plantation were wild with 
excitement. Half of their relatives were at Otaheite 
plantation, which formerly belonged to their master, 
John Smith. This was near the ferry which crossed 
to the mainland. These people were eager to follow 
after the army " to see the fun, and say how d'ye to 
their friends." But military orders were strict, and 
it was impossible to cross the lines. 

The superintendent had already made new con- 



172 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

tracts with the people, and it was time to make prep- 
arations for field-work. 

Feb. 18 Charleston was surrendered and our troops 
took possession. 

When this news reached us the people in Beaufort 
had a great mass-meeting. An immense crowd of 
freed people gathered there and made a real jubilee 
of the occasion. 

''April 14, 1865. The evacuation of Fort Sum- 
ter on the same day four years previous was cele- 
brated by raising the same flag on the fort, by Major 
Anderson." 

I quote from the Rebellion Record. 

Everybody around us was making preparations to 
be present on this great occasion. There was no ade- 
quate means of transportation for the crowd ready to 
go. We were on an island, and dependent upon boats 
which were not to be had. Many of the colored peo- 
ple started off on flats and in dugouts, trusting to 
have the good fortune to meet some larger crafts on 
the Avay, and be taken aboard. It was impossible to 
secure accommodations in the newly captured city. 

Our " friends at court " could only promise us shel- 
ter and protection. Subsistence was a question past 
solution. 

Under these adverse circumstances we who were 
so near were obliged to forego the pleasure of wit- 
nessing this great historical event. 

A little later we went with General and Mrs. Sax- 
ton and saw the city in its desolation. It was a sad 
sight, and my heart ached for the old residents who 



ASSASSIKATION OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN 173 

had struggled so bravely and suffered so mucli 
and had finally lost all. We too had suffered and 
had lost those nearest and dearest to us, but our 
homes and "sacred hearth-stones" were left.^ 

Assassination of President Lincoln. 

The news that Petersburg and Richmond were 
evacuated and that General Lee had surrendered on 
April 9, all came together. The colored people 
were wild with delight over this. They worked all 
day, and sang and shouted all night. 

Our mail only came once in eight days. There 
were no telegraph lines nearer than Savannah, and 
our communication with this city and Charleston was 
very irregular. We waited with what patience we 
could for the next steamer to Hilton Head. Alas ! 
this brought direful news of the assassination jof Presi- 
dent Lincoln, on April 14. The steamer sailed from 
New York early the next morning. Some gentlemen 
brought us a New York extra, which they secured 
just as the steamer for Charleston was pushing out 
from the wharf at New York. Our information was 
most meagre. We did not know whether the mur- 
derous blow was fatal or not. We only knew it was 
possible, so we waited for further news with intense 
anxiety. 

The poor freed people were filled with consterna- 
tion and despair. They crowded around our door 
constantly, asking what would be done now. We 
could tell them nothing, for we knew no more than 
they. 

1 See Appendix. - . 



174 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

One freed man said, " Praise God, missis ! Praise 
God I I couldn't sleep all las' night, I is so worrit 
in my mind about Massa Linkum." 

The "rice people " always spoke of the President 
as " Uncle Sam " and " Papa Linkum," etc. They 
gave him credit for all the wonderful things that had 
been done since, the world began. And now they 
were like orphans without home or protection. 

A woman came to me with tears streaming down 
her face. She said, '^ I come to beg you'na for a lee- 
tle bit o' black to pit aroun' the tail o' my coat [gown] 
to mourn for poor Papa Sam." 

The freed people in our district were now working 
in their fields, hoeing the corn and cotton which they 
had planted in March. They were under the care 
of a kind and judicious superintendent, and were con- 
tented and happy when this great sorrow came. 

" How will the war end ? " and " What will our 
country do now? " were questions daily asked of us, 
for which we had no answer. We could only counsel 
them to have patience and faith in God's goodness. 

When the final news came we had funeral services 
in the schoolhouse, at which there was a great crowd 
of freed people. Every one who could get a scrap of 
black had put it on as a mourning badge. 

A girl had a black band tied around her head. 
Another had a piece of black cambric which she made 
into a bow and wore as a top-knot. 

A man turned his coat and wore it inside out 
because it had a " mourning lining," and a woman 
begged us for some strips of black cambric, which she 



lee's surrender 175 

basted around the bottom of her gown and up and 
down the front with white cotton. Their appearance 
would have been ludicrous had it not been so sad. 

Their prayers were heart-broken lamentations. 
One man said, — 

" We kneel upon de groun', wid our faces in our 
ban's an' our ban's in de dust, an' cry to thee for 
marcy, O Lord, dis evenin'." 

Words would utterly fail to describe the occasion. 
We had draped the room with black. They referred 
to this in their prayers, as a symbol of the dense cloud 
of sorrow which hung over their lives. Whatever 
they heard or saw was repeated and woven into their 
supplications. 

One of the leaders intoned his prayer, which, in its 
perfect rhythmical flow, became a solemn chant. He 
called the martyred president by every tender and 
endearing tone of which he could think, ending with : 
'^Massa Linkum! our 'dored Redeemer an' Saviour 
an' Frien' ! Amen ! " 

Lee^s Surrender. 

April 9 General Lee surrendered, and the work of 
reconstruction may be said to have begun in all the 
seceded States. 

The news of this surrender and the disbanding of 
Lee's army, and the breaking up of the Confederacy, 
came with that of the death of President Lincoln. 
But the joy of the final victory was swallowed up in 
the grief of this last disaster. The poor contrabands 
had no heart to rejoice. Some of the young men 



176 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

came together for a little singing and shouting, but 
the older people looked very grave. They knew that 
these changes were full of tremendous import to them, 
and they were watchful and anxious. 

Nothing in the history of the world has ever 
equalled the magnitude and thrilling importance 
of the events then transpiring. Here were more 
than four millions of human beings just born into 
freedom; one day held in the most abject slavery, 
the next, " de Lord's free men." Free to come and 
to go according to the best lights given them. Every 
movement of their white friends was to them full of 
significance, and often regarded with distrust. Well 
might they sometimes exclaim, when groping from 
darkness into light, " Save me from my friend, and I 
will look out for my enemy." 

Whilst the Union people were asking, *^ Those 
negroes! what is to be done with them?" they, in 
their ignorance and helplessness, were crying out in 
agony, " What will become of us ? " They were lit- 
erally saying, " I believe, O Lord ! help thou mine 
unbelief." 

They were constantly coming to us to ask what 
peace meant for them ? Would it be peace indeed ? 
or oppression, hostility, and servile subjugation ? 
This was what they feared, for they knew the temper 
of the baffled rebels as did no others. 

" And is this what we fight for? " asked the young 
soldiers. 

The hatred of some white people for the colored 
race amounted almost to frenzy. It was by no means 



LEE'S SURRENDER. 177 

confined to the old Southerners, but was largely 
shared by Northern adventurers, a host of whom had 
followed the army. 

It took time for the freed people to find out who 
were their true friends. But they gradually learned 
to discriminate. Their respect, however, for a white 
skin was amazing, and sometimes made us ashamed 
of our own race. 

One of our colored men, who had been deceived, 
and grossly cheated, and ill-treated by one who was 
known as a missionary, recounting his troubles to 
me, exclaimed, — 

" I declar', ma'am, he don't desarve to be a white 
man. He'll shuck ban's wid his right han', an' fling 
a brick-bat at you wid his lef '." 



178 FIliST DAYS WITH THE COKTKABANBS 



XIII 

JACK FLOWEH'S STRAW BOAT 

Among the first persons who came to us to get 
news about the assassination of President Lincoln, was 
Jack Flowers. He was a large and finely built black 
man, who had made incredible efforts to get out of 
bondage. 

" I 'spect it's no use to be here," he said dejectedly, 
'' I might as well stayed where I was. It 'pears we 
can't be free, nohow. The rebs won't let us alone. 
If they can't kill us, they'll kill all our friens', sure." 

I had already heard his story, and, remembering 
what he had braved and endured, I did not wonder 
he now lost heart. His master was a most cruel man, 
who lived on the main. 

Jack had always been under brutal overseers and 
drivers, who followed him with the lash. When the 
war broke out the slaves were doubly watched and 
guarded, being driven to and from the rice-fields like 
wild animals. 

For years Jack had been studying upon his condi- 
tion as a slave, and wondering how he could secure 
his liberty ; so when the Union forces landed at 
Hilton Head, he resolved to get to them, or perish 



JACK flower's straw BOAT 179 

in the attempt. He secretly took leave of his family, 
and ran away, first hiding in the rice-swamps during 
the day, and creeping along at night, until he reached 
the woods. Here he hid in the bushes until dark, 
and then crawled down to the banks of the creeks and 
marshes to elude the dogs, which were out in hot pur- 
suit. At one time he stood in the water up to his chin 
all day, the hounds were so near. At another time he 
was ''bogged," and sunk so deep in the black mud, 
he despaired of ever getting out. Finally, he made 
a basket-boat, woven of the reeds cut in the swamps, 
and calked with bits of cotton picked up in the fields, 
and smeared with the pitch from the pine-trees near 
by. In this frail boat he drifted with the tide down 
the river, which is but an arm of the sea, until he 
passed the Rebel pickets. Then he quietly pad- 
dled himself along with some barrel staves he had 
picked up in the woods, until he reached the Union 
pickets, whom he hailed as friends, and 'begged them 
to protect him. 

His straw boat was afterward sent to Boston to 
Governor Andrew, and by him presented to the 
" Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free Masons." 

Jack gave us a long and thrilling account of his 
perils and adventures by the way. I copy here his 
story, which was sent with the boat, and which was 
afterwards published. 

Jack made several attempts to pass the rebel picket 
lines, but failed. 

*' So, when I found it was no use to get over that way, I con- 
cluded to try another. Uncle lent me his axe and knife, and I cut 



180 FIRST DAYS WITH THE COKTKABAKDS 

a lot of rushes and a tough oak-tree for splints, and went to work 
in the woods and made this basket; it took me two days to weave 
it after the stuff was all ready. The pitch I got by cutting into a 
tree and catching the gum, which I boiled in a kettle of my sis- 
ter's. The old shutter came from Dr. Fuller's house. It w^as three 
miles to the water, and I carried the basket alone, on my head, in 
the dark night, for fear of the pickets. It was so late in the night 
when I got all ready to start in the creek, that I did not get down 
to the Coosaw till day clear. So I landed on a little hummock 
close by the mouth of the creek, and hid the boat and myself for 
another day. But before nine o'clock the next night I put out 
and paddled over to Port Royal, too glad to get away. The 
Yankee picket wan't asleep, but challenged me before I got 
near the shore, and I told him right off that I was a runaway 
nigger coming ashore for freedom. The secesh picket heard me, 
and after I got up the bank he hailed across, * Yanks, who have 
you got?' 

*^ Yankees say, ^ One of your fellows.' 

" ^ What you going to do with him ? ' 

" ' Don't know. What you think best ? ' 

" * Cut him up for fish-bait. He ain't good for nothing else.' " 



JIMMIE 181 



XIV 

JIMMIE 

One bright morning in May, 1865, an orderly rode 
up to our door at the plantation with a military order 
from General Saxton, requiring us. Miss Fannie and 
myself, to report at headquarters in Beaufort that 
afternoon. An ambulance would be sent for us at 
three o'clock. Unless something unexpected pre- 
vented we should be returned to our home Sunday 
afternoon. This was Friday. 

With this order was a bright note from the major s 
wife, telling us not to be alarmed by a military 
summons ; they all knew that nothing less than a 
command with authority would bring us to them, 
and, indeed, we must know they wanted to see 
us very much ; besides, they had something to 
tell us. 

So in due time we were packed into an ambulance 
and conveyed to town, where we were received at 
headquarters by an orderly, and conducted to the gen- 
eral. He received us with military formality, asked 
us a few questions, then laughingly '' turned us over" 
to the colonel and major, who conducted us to the 
ladies. 

Those visits to headquarters were golden days in 



182 FIRST DAYS WITH THE COKTBABANDS 

our busy and anxious lives. Others besides our- 
selves found there a haven of rest. No one ever 
came officially into the department, or left, without 
experiencing the kindness and hospitality of the gen- 
eral's household. Who can and will write the story 
of those days ? To Miss Fannie and me it was like 
another world to see the faces of white friends 
around us. 

We soon learned why we were summoned at this 
special time. A little mulatto boy had been sent to 
General Saxton by Mrs. Jefferson Davis, and now 
the question came up, what was the best thing to do 
with him. 

He was about seven years old, but small for his 
age ; was a very light mulatto, with brown curly hair, 
thin lips, and a defiant nose. When brought before 
us he looked around suspiciously and fearlessly. 
When Mrs. Saxton called him he walked calmly up 
to her ; but when I held out my hand to him he folded 
his arms and stood still, straight as an arrow, with his 
head thrown back, without meeting my friendly ad- 
vances. It was comical to see the cool indifference of 
this tiny scrap of humanity. 

" Jimmie, this lady is your friend," said Mrs. Sax- 
ton. Thereupon he walked up to me and held out 
his hand. " Now go out on the piazza, and wait until 
I call you," continued the lady. 

Now his whole manner changed. Taking the ma- 
jor's little boy by the hand, he went out of the 
room laughing and talking, and we soon saw him ra- 
cing around with Eddie full of fun and frolic. He 



JIMMIE 183 

was evidently fond of children, but he distrusted 
grown people. Well he might, for he had seen only 
troublous times. This was his story, as then told us. 
I copy the dates from other records : — 

''Jefferson Davis was captured at Irwinsville, 
Georgia, May 10, 1865. He had with him his fam- 
ily, his Postmaster General Reagan, his Private Sec- 
retary Harrison, and others, with a train of five wag- 
ons and three ambulances." 

From Irwinsville he was brought to Hilton Head, 
where he was placed on board a government steamer 
to be taken North. For the first time he was now 
separated from his family and friends. 

News came to Beaufort of these movements, and 
the steamer Planter was sent down with despatches. 
When she returned, an officer on board brought with 
him this small colored boy, sent by Mrs. Davis to 
General Saxton. She also sent a note by the boy, 
written with pencil on the blank leaf of a book. 
I quote from memory. She said: — 

" I send this boy to you. General Saxton, and beg 
you to take good care of him." His mother was a 
free colored woman in Richmond. She died when he 
was an infant, leaving him to the care of a friend, 
who was cruel and neglectful of him. One day Mrs. 
Davis and her children went to the house and found 
this woman beating the little fellow, who was then 
only two years old. So she took him home with her, 
intending to find a good place for him. But he was 
so bright and playful, her own children were imwill- 
ing to give him up. Then she decided to keep him 



184 FIRST DAYS WITH THE COKTRABAKDS 

until he was old enough to learn a trade. " That was 
five years ago, and he has shared our fortunes and 
misfortunes until the present time. But we can do 
nothing more for him. I send him to you, General 
Saxton, as you were a friend of our earlier and better 
times. You will find him affectionate and tractable. 
I beg you to be kind to him." This was the gist of 
her note. 

Poor little human waif ! truly a child born with- 
out home or country ; torn from all the friends he 
had ever known, and brought off by strangers into 
the enemy's lines. We cannot wonder he looked 
with scorn or distrust upon all around him. 

As he was the constant companion and playmate 
of Mrs. Davis's children, he considered himself as 
one of them, adopting their views and sharing their 
prejudices. President Davis was to him the one 
great man in the world. Mrs. Davis had given him 
the kindly care of a mother, and he had for her the 
loving devotion of a child. 

His clothing consisted of a threadbare jacket and 
pants, much too small for him. He had no covering 
for his head, and he was barefooted. 

One of the ladies asked him if he had any more 
clothing. He held down his head, and said with a 
trembling voice, — 

''Her couldn't do any better," meaning Mrs. Davis ; 
" her hadn't any more to give me, for her hadn't any 
clothes for the other children. Bud," meaning Mrs. 
Davis's oldest boy, '' wanted me to wear his cap, and 
he put it on my head, but her said him wanted it 



JIMMIE 185 

niore'na me, and I must be a good boy till her send 
for me." 

He was very quick and active, and always alert. 
One day he heard some little darkies singing '' We'll 
hang Jeff Davis on a sour-apple tree." This was 
more than Jinimie could stand. He dashed into 
their gang, and waving his new straw hat, of which he 
was very proud, shouted, " Three cheers for President 
Jefferson Davis." At this the whole crowd was in 
commotion. They shouted " A rebel ! a rebel ! " and 
began to throw oyster-shells at him, and all wanted 
to fight. Jimmie backed up against the house, and 
told them to come on ; that " President Davis was 
no rebel, but a good gentleman who would whip the 
Yankees yet." 

General Saxton was informed of the fight going on 
amongst the pickaninnies, so he called James to him 
and questioned him about the affair. 

The boy bravely told him all that had happened, 
and angrily declared that if he were a man he would 
kill every one of them. 

General Saxton replied it was true General Davis 
had been his best friend, and he highly approved of his 
fidelity to him. But fighting for him v/as of no avail. 
He doubted if fighting ever helped anybody. He 
could love and honor President Davis, but it would 
be wiser at present to say nothing about him. Mrs. 
Davis had sent him here, and they meant to take care 
of him. 

The little fellow faltered out that — 

" Her didn't want to send me, sir, and her cry 



186 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

when I come away." But after that he never men- 
tioned the name of Jefferson Davis, and was very 
unwilling to be questioned about him. 

He was quite willing to talk to the ladies about 
Mrs. Davis and his life in Richmond ; told them of the 
death of one of General Davis's little boys who fell 
from the piazza which ran along by the kitchen, and 
was killed on the brick pavement in the yard. Jim- 
mie, who was his constant playfellow, was the first to 
get to him, and he sat down on the bricks and lifted 
his head on to his lap. And " her found them so when 
her come, and her screamed," and the negroes carried 
both the children into the house together. 

In time the little fellow grew used to his life 
amongst the Union soldiers. Good food and good 
care made another boy of him. One thing he could 
not forget, — the forcible separation of General Davis 
from his family. He was overheard talking with a 
sergeant one day, who had evidently been question- 
ing him. 

''When the officers took hold of the president to 
lead him away, Mrs. Davis threw her arms tight about 
him. Then another officer came up and took hold of 
her, and she screamed and fell down, and all the people 
thought she was dead. And I said I would kill that 
man, and so I will when I grow to be a man," ex- 
claimed the little fellow striking out in fierce anger, 
while the tears streamed down his face. 

General and Mrs. Saxton took him with them to 
Charleston, and while there he became very fond of his 
new protectors. But the vicissitudes of army life made 



JIMMIE 187 

it impossible for them to keep him, so he was sent 
to us to be taken North and placed where he could go 
to school. This was another great trial for the lad. 
Poor little waif ! like a seed borne by the wind far 
from its native land; with no natural ties or even a 
lawful name. 

When Mrs. Saxton told him he was to go to the 
plantation she said, " You will be very happy with 
the ladies." He tearfully replied, " I'll be more hap- 
pier with the general. I likes to wait on them I 
love." 

He came to us in March, and soon settled down 
into regular duties in school, where he seemed very 
happy. One day he said, "Is to-day March? well, 
to-morrow will be deeper March, won't it ? And 
then summer will come, and I shall see the general." 
He told me with evident pleasure of the presents of- 
fered General Saxton in Charleston. Then he said 
thoughtfully, " God is a good man, ain't him ? I 
think him and General Saxton two of the goodest 
men in the world." 

When it was explained to him that God was not a 
man, he seemed to reflect upon it for a time ; then 
he exclaimed, '' Well, the general is most as good as 
him ! " I may say in this connection, the little fellow 
came North, and remained with us in our country 
home for the summer. While waiting for a home 
to be found for him, I sent him to a district school 
not far away, established for the children belonging 
to the operatives in a small mill close by. 

These people were mostly foreigners, and this boy 



188 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

was a '-'-nagur^'' a new specimen to most of the chil- 
dren. He was active and playful, and I must confess 
he had many pranks, learned from the soldiers while 
in camp. Besides, in virtue of his light skin and 
curly hair, and as he belonged to '^ the gineral," he 
had been leader and ruler amongst his little comrades 
at the South ; and having played with the children 
in President Davis's family, and been a boon com- 
panion with them, young as he was, he had no fear 
or reserve with white children elsewhere. Indeed, he 
seemed to belong more to the white race than the 
black. 

As we were warned, trouble soon came in school on 
his account ; the children all '' ganged " against him, 
and he, to defend himself, threw mud and stones and 
whatever he could lay his hands on. So one night I 
was called upon by one of the mill-hands, who was 
very angry. He began by saying, — 

" Your nigger boy struck one of my children to- 
day. I come to tell you that nigger brat must leave 
that school, or I won't answer for the consequences. 
I won't stand it, I warn you." 

I waited a moment, and then said, '' I am very 
sorry. Please sit down and tell me all about it." 

Upon this the man took off his hat and made a 
bow as he took a seat. He seemed a little ashamed 
when he tried to tell his story, and he ended by 
saying,— 

'' It wan't much after all, and I shouldn't wonder 
if my children provoked him, for they can be provok- 
ing, and no mistake." 



JIMMIE 189 

I promised to go with the boy the next day and see 
the teacher. So when the bell rang the next morning 
we walked down to the schoolhouse, where I found 
about twenty bright-looking children, who were evi- 
dently expecting us. 

I questioned the teacher, who gave a very mild 
report of the affair. Then I talked to the children, 
telling them how sorry I was that any trouble had 
come ; that this little fellow was a stranger who 
was born hundreds of miles from this place, who had 
no home, and neither father nor mother, nor sister nor 
brother, and no relation in the world that he knew 
anything about. I could not help contrasting their 
condition with that of this forlorn little stranger; 
'' For," said I, " he has no one at the North to stand 
up for him but myself, and I must soon leave 
him." 

The children began to look sympathetic, and be- 
fore I stopped speaking, the little girl who had made 
the complaint walked across the room and gave 
Jimmie a big red apple she had in her hand. From 
that time there was no further trouble, and James 
became the hero of the school. 

In the autumn a place was found for him, but the 
same trouble came up about sending him to school. 
He could not be admitted because " he was a nig- 
ger." 

He was then sent farther off in the country, with 
the same result. There would have been no trouble 
in the cities, but the country people were not to ba 
imposed upon. 



190 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Finally the little boy drifted into Auntie Gwynne's 
Home. This noble woman placed him where he was 
well-trained in all ways, having the advantage of 
school, as well as a good practical education, until he 
was old enough to support himself. 



DISBANDING THE TROOPS 191 



XV 

DISBANDING THE TROOPS 

April 13, 1865, the Secretary of War, Edward M. 
Stanton, issued orders for disbanding part of the 
troops. 

The news of this order did not reach us officially 
for some time. Then came a notice that government 
transports would be taken away, and everything 
belonging to the army be removed. Three large 
steamers headed towards Beaufort went by our place. 
In time, one crowded with soldiers from the hospi- 
tals returned. These were the straws which told 
which way the wind blew. 

Of course the freed people around us watched every 
movement with trembling interest, and wondered 
what would come next. It is not strange they grew 
faint-hearted. We sympathized most deeply with 
them. The officers around us could not tell what 
these changes portended. They received their orders 
and obeyed. The colored leaders called a mass-meet- 
ing at the schoolhouse, to discuss affairs. But it 
was a " praise-meeting," without political discussion. 
The time had not come for that. The prayers and 
speeches of the negroes were indescribably touching. 



192 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

There was not a word of bitterness or animosity. 
The gist of the meeting was, — 

" O Lord, if it so please thee, do, we pray thee, 
tuck care o' we." 

Some of their expressions, with such a full measure 
of love and good-will towards men, seemed to us 
really sublime. They literally said of their old own- 
ers, " Father, forgive them, for they know not what 
they do." 

Their supplications were always impressive. One 
night we attended a meeting where prayers were to 
be offered for a gentleman in our household who was 
very ilL The leaders of the church had asked to be 
allowed to pray with him. We suggested a praise- 
meeting should be held at the negro quarters instead. 
Their supplications in his behalf were most earnest 
and tender. One of the elders said in his prayer, — 

'' Everybody has to tote him own load, an' some 
have big loads an' some have little ones, but nobody 
can tote for him neighbor. But if the dear Lord so 
please to let we tote poor sick massa's load, we'm 
bear it all till him clean done git well." 

We announced that school would be closed the last 
of June for the summer. Some of the women in our 
district were in a transport of despair when they 
heard this. In vain we told them we only took a 
vacation, and would surely come back again. This 
was unintelligible, and they found no comfort in 
what we said. They could not get beyond the fact 
that they were to be deserted and left unprotected. 

An old woman appeared before me one morning 



DISBANDING THE TKOOPS 193 

looking anxious and troubled. As soon as she saw 
me she exclaimed, — 

'^ Missis, I come for ax you'na to be so please to 
larn me one little hymn 'fore you go. I ain't got 
long for stay here. I 'spects the Big Massa will call 
me home 'fore long, an* w'en I gets up there I ain't 
know what to say. I ain't know one t'ing to tell 
de Big Massa. Please, missis, larn me somet'ing, 
an' w'en I goes, mebbe de angels will help me to 
'member." 

Another old women came to expostulate. 

'' You mus'n't go ! " she exclaimed with righteous 
indignation. " Massa Sam sen' you to tuck care o' 
we, an' you mus' tuck care." 

Then to my reply she said, — 

'' O ma'am, us tuck you for our missis, an' you 
mus' stay wid we till you dead we all. Dear missis, 
what'll us do ef you lef ' us here ? " 

A lame woman came. She said, — 

" I tell you what, ma'am, the secesh ain't coming 
back here to let we alone. Dear missis, ef you'na all 
go North an' lef we, the rebs will make it mighty 
hard for we. I'se born an' bring up here, an' I know 
dem. Dey was debils 'fore dem bin gone away, an' 
dey ain't going to be better now, sure." 

The " tight times " had already come. Provisions 
were getting very scarce. Only the old and infirm 
received rations from government. The young and 
able-bodied men and women, and all who could, 
were required to work in the fields and earn subsis- 
tence for themselves and families. This was often 



194 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

scanty enough. In April and May, when blackberries 
and plums were ripe, the little children picked and 
sold what they could. 

Early one morning I found two little girls on the 
piazza with blackberries "for sell." They had also 
two eggs " for give you, ina'am." They came the 
night before, but, finding we were not at home, went 
away. Upon inquiry I found they had no supper 
but their berries. They now wanted to sell what 
they could, so as to go to the town five miles away 
and buy " grub " for the family breakfast. Such 
interviews were of daily occurrence. 

" I tell you what, ma'am," said old Aunt Mila, who 
was nearly one hundred years old, " dese am sich 
tight times. Every one for himself, an' God for we 
all." 

These were not easy times for ourselves. June 
16 Miss Fannie wrote, " We have intensely hot 
weather. The mercury goes up to ninety-five degrees 
daily. It has been sixteen days since we have had a 
letter or paper or any message from the North. The 
mail arrived yesterday, and we have had a time of 
rejoicing. We are indeed making history fast.^^ 

So many people came to us for advice and help, 
that the routine of our daily lives was entirely dis- 
organized. Good " Aunt Jane's " sympathies for 
others made her forgetful of our own needs. In 
spite of remonstrances, her breakfast was a little later 
every day. The same with other meals, until we 
decided that some day we should skip all together, 
and call the last meal at night our next day's break- 



EETURK OF ABANDONED LANDS 195 

fast. We could not get vexed, for the poor old 
woman was so contrite when her attention was called 
to our condition. 

School continued with a degree of regularity. 
The children came early, and the men and women 
hurried from their field-work at noon, all more and 
more eager "• for larn." 

To know how to educate and elevate this peculiar 
race was a serious problem for us to solve. 

Our Northern friends were unwearied in their ef- 
forts to help us. They packed boxes and barrels with 
second-hand clothing and sewing materials, and books 
and supplies for the school, and sent them along as 
fast as transportation could be secured, but still there 
was need for more. 

In August, in my home at the North, I received a 
letter from a young officer in Beaufort : — 

" The Freedmen's Bureau down here did not give 
satisfaction to Colonel Fullerton, General Howard's 
adjutant-general, nor to Mr. Alvord, who is also an 
agent from General Howard. They say not nearly 
so much has been accomplished here as in other 
sections." 

Such reports made us very anxious for the welfare 
of our poor contrabands. 

Return of Abandoned Lands, 

Oct. 9, 1865, an order was issued from the War 
Department directing Major-General Howard, com- 
mander of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and 
Abandoned Lands, to go to South Carolina, Geor- 



196 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTKABAKDS 

gia, and Florida, to " effect a satisfactory arrange- 
ment by which the lands might be returned to the 
former owners. Certain tracts of land in these States 
situated on the coast, at the time for the most part 
vacant, were set apart by Major-General W. T. Sher- 
man's Special Field Order, No. 15, for the benefit of 
refugees and freedmen that had been congregated by 
the operations of war, or had been left to take care 
of themselves by former owners." 

By this action of the national authority, " an ex- 
pectation was created that they would be able to 
retain possession of said lands." The reason given for 
"• interfering with the occupants established by gov- 
ernment upon lands so long in its possession," was 
" that a large number of the former owners are earn- 
estly soliciting the restoration of the same, and prom- 
ising to absorb the land and care for the freedmen." 

It is not my wish now to sit in judgment upon the 
acts of those early days. I only record the facts and 
their effects upon the freed people. Most of the land 
on the sea-islands had been divided up and sold to 
them. The news of this order, and the expected 
visit of General Howard, were terrible blows to 
them. They regarded the return of the former own- 
ers as an inauguration of the old slavery times, with 
the worst consequences. 

On Edisto, one of the largest and most fertile 
of the sea-islands, the negroes were intelligent, in- 
dustrious, and thrifty. When the commissioners ar- 
rived with the " secesh owners," the freed people 
had ah'eady begun to repair their houses, and to clean 
up the ground, ready to plant. 



RETURN OF ABANDONED LANDS 19T 

General Howard reported : " It is exceedingly diffi- 
cult to reconcile conflicting interests." 

We need not be surprised that for a time there was 
a degree of antagonism between the whites and 
blacks; but the negroes were reported to ^'have 
shown good sense and dignity, and in time the old 
habit of submission prevailed." 

The following report of a Georgian shows the con- 
dition of the people everywhere in this crisis : — 

" The blacks eat, sleep, move, live, only by the tolerance of the 
whites, who hate them. The blacks own absolutely nothing but 
their bodies ; their former masters own everything, and will sell 
them nothing. If a black man draws even a bucket of water from 
a well, he must first get the permission of a white man, his enemy. 
If he sleeps in a house over night, it is only by the leave of a white 
man. If he buys a loaf of bread, he must buy of a white man. 
If he asks for work to earn his living, he must ask it of a white 
man, and the whites are determined to give him no work except on 
such terms as will make him a serf, and impair his liberty. In 
different parts of the South, the planters are already combining for 
this purpose; they engage themselves to each other not to sell or 
lease land to a black man on any terms ; not to employ them except 
by the year, and on certain conditions, and not to suffer ihem to live 
on their places unless they submit to the planter's conditions." 

Strange as this language may sound at the present 
time, it is a true index of the spirit of '66. Well 
might our freed people hang their heads and talk of 
" uncommon tight times," with one hope alone, that 
'' God is fur we all." 

The freedmen and their friends had not recovered 
from their dismay at the order from the War Depart- 
ment that the lands should be returned, when the fol- 
lowing circular No. 1 was issued : — 



198 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Charleston, S.C, Jan. 20, 1866. 
In obedience to instructions from the commissioner, I hereby 
transfer the control of the affairs of the Bureau of Refugees, Freed- 
men, and Abandoned Lands to Brig. -Gen. R. K. Scott, U. S. Vols., 
who is appointed assistant commissioner for South Carolina. 

(Signed.) R.* Saxton. 

Capt, A. Q. M. Bvt. Col. U, S. A. 

Assistant Commissioner, 

This order was a keen disappointment to all of us 
who knew so well what General Saxton had done to 
aid the cause of the freedmen. It was he who first 
encouraged them to buy lands. He helped to get 
the order passed to have parts of the old abandoned 
plantations cut up into ten-acre lots and sold to the 
negroes. He had been urgent that a law should be 
passed that these lands should not be sold by, or 
alienated from, the original purchasers, who must 
be negroes and heads of families, until six years 
from the enactment of this law. This was to save 
them from sharpers and carpet-baggers at home and 
abroad. He had advised the people to build small 
houses, and get out of the old negro quarters as soon 
as possible, knowing they would never be entirely 
free until they had abiding-places they could surely 
call their own. He was watchful to see that only 
good superintendents should be over them, and was 
severe upon any acts of unfairness or dishonesty. 
All this helped to get for Beaufort the name of " The 
Nigger's Heaven." 

When the order came that the lands should be 
restored. General Saxton decided that goveraiment 
had failed in its promises to him. Hence his re- 
moval. 



HELP FOR THE SOUTH 199 

No one wished to bear the news of this reversal of 
opinion to the freed people. Certainly it was a 
difficult task for General Howard. Perhaps no one 
could have done this with more tact than he. The 
people were won by his kind consideration of their 
views and position. He gained their confidence, 
which was more than half the conquest. 

Help for the South. 

Nov. 26, 1865, Governor Andrew of Boston wrote 
the following letter to his friend and pastor, Rev. 
James Freeman Clarke : — 

*^ I desire to echo your suggestion made to-day after sermon, 
and I hope for an efficient movement in behalf of the freedmen. 

** Although the Government of the United States ought to serve 
out rations, and protect the poor people from the suffering from 
hunger impending this winter, there will still be large room left for 
private charity. Labor disorganized, fields wasted, crops unmade, 
planters impoverished and demoralized, the freedmen uncertain 
and half protected, they and their old masters mutually doubt- 
ful of each other, the poor whites hostile in great measure, and 
all the victims more of their ignorance and of antecedent circum- 
stances than of present bad intentions, — this is the picture a 
large part of the South now exhibits. We of the North are in 
comfort and prosperity. We must intervene for the immediate 
preservation of the colored people of the South, powerless, for the 
moment, to save themselves, and by wise and prudent gener- 
osity help to float them over until a new crop can be made. 
Acting in connection with the Freedmen's Bureau, and with sen- 
sible and practical agents, a million of dollars raised by the North 
before Christmas, while in reality and comparatively a small sum, 
would do unspeakable good.'* 

This is indeed '' a picture " of the condition in 
which we found our district when we returned to it 



200 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

in October of the same year. This letter also shows 
tlie kindly spirit prevading the North ; an apprecia- 
tion of the devastation and desolation of the whole 
South, and a readiness to lend a helping hand to 
build up on a better foundation the social structure 
so recently pulled down. 

A little later Rev. Oliver C. Everett wrote us from 
Boston : — 

" From what I can learn, it seems to me that the freedmen will 
have a liberal share of the heart and strength, of the sympathy and 
means, of the North. The churches in all the various denomina- 
tions are awakening to this matter. Soon we shall see the inter- 
est which was felt for the Sanitary Commission turned into this 
new channel. The people are ready and willing; they have got 
their hands in the work, and they understand the working of the 
machinery whereby great good may be accomplished." 

The same date, Dec. 13, 1865, another friend 
wrote : — 

*' To-morrow morning I am going over to New York as a dele- 
gate to a meeting to consider whether the freedmen's societies and 
refugees' aid societies shall be united, so that the charity of the 
North to the South may go through one channel, and be distrib- 
uted without regard to race or color. The plan has been proposed 
as one which will tend to allay jealousy against the blacks, and to 
secure greater respect for teachers of the freedmen. The principle 
of ignoring race or color is good, but there may be practical diffi- 
culties inuniting the different societies.^^ 

The delight of the freed people in our district 
when they welcomed us back to our home and school 
in the autumn would have compensated us for all 
the anxieties and inconveniences we had experienced 
on the way. 

As soon as peace was declared, many of the old 



HELP FOR THE SOUTH 201 

refugees were eager to get back to their former homes 
on the old plantations. We had tried to dissuade 
them from acting hastily, but we found several fami- 
lies had gone back to the main in our absence. They 
had a great longing to be with 'Hhe old folks at 
home." 

When school began we were much surprised to 
find the children had forgotten so little of what they 
had learned before. The first day of school they 
opened their books at the place they left off, as if only 
a few hours instead of months had intervened since 
they were last in their classes. The children only 
were at liberty now, and could attend regularly ; but 
every man and woman, far and near, came to get 
their names enrolled, — '' to get themselves ticketed," 
they called it. 

About that time a young officer came from Charles- 
ton, bringing a gloomy report of affairs around there. 
Things looked threatening. If the military was en- 
tirely removed, as announced, bloodshed and insur- 
rection were predicted before New Year's. In the 
country great bitterness arose between the whites 
and blacks. This was the season when they were 
making new labor contracts for the coming year. 
The whites ordered and threatened. The blacks had 
armed themselves, and were drilling. It was resist- 
ance against force. 

I mention these things to show the spirit of the 
times. 

President Johnson's message did not help us out 
of our confusion in regard to reconstruction and the 



202 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

prospects of the freed people, who were our especial 
care. Then came tlie proclamation that all the con- 
fiscated lands, not already sold, should be returned 
to the original owners. This was a discouraging set- 
back to the freed people, who had occupied and culti- 
vated these lands during the war, and were noAV living 
in their old quarters ; and they had nowhere else to 
go. It was particularly hard for the people living 
on the islands around Charleston. There was not a 
foot of land they could secure and call their own, and 
no place where they were at liberty to remain, except- 
ing by the will of their old masters. The richest and 
finest plantations in the world were on these islands. 
The slaves were a "prime lot," of whom their owners 
were justly proud. These were a set of fine, manly, 
intelligent fellows who had carried on the plantations, 
raising and selling marvellous crops for their old 
owners in former times. 

Before the holidays. Colonel Ketchum, of General 
Howard's staff, went with some of the former owners 
to Edisto Island to arrange about their lands, prelimi- 
nary to finally returning them. He was much im- 
pressed by the dignity and manliness of the negroes 
in this first interview. They were firm in refusing 
to give up their old homes unless other lands were 
given them. They held this as their right, promised 
by government. They were also firm in refusing to 
work for their old masters unless guaranteed recog- 
nition and protection. 

News came at this time that the military officers 
were to have charge of all affairs connected with the 



HELP FOK THE SOUTH 203 

Freedman's Bureau. This was another disappoint- 
ment to all persons interested in the negroes. This 
meant the removal of their friends, and their places 
occupied by indifferent and sometimes hostile offi- 
cials. This was the period when their good and tried 
friend, General Saxton, was replaced. 



204 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 



XVI 

EMANCIPATION JUBILEE 

New Year's Day, 1866, we were present at the 
emancipation jubilee on the race-course in Charleston. 
It was estimated there were over ten thousand col- 
ored people around the speaker's stand. Most of 
these were comfortably dressed, and all were digni- 
fied, earnest, and intelligent-looking. Many of the 
soldiers on duty were negroes, waiting to be mustered 
out. The streets of the city were filled with happy 
freed people. According to their spiritual, they had 
'' fought for liberty," and this was their " New Jeru- 
salem," of which they so often sang. Even the poor- 
est, and those most scantily clothed, looked as if they 
already '' walked that golden street," and felt '' that 
starry crown " upon their uncovered heads. It was 
indeed a day of great rejoicing, and one long to be 
remembered. These people were living their " New 
Jerusalem," which had been their Marseillaise. 

All the best friends of the freed people were on the 
stand as their guests. The managers and marshals, 
and all officials, were black men. General Saxton, 
'' Father French," and some colored preachers made 
short addresses, appealing to their common-sense and 



EMANCIPATION JUBILEE 205 

best intelligence. Such a mass of eager, earnest, up- 
turned faces was truly inspiring. The struggles and 
wrongs of all the past years seemed swallowed up in 
victory. 

General Saxton spoke to them earnestly of the im- 
portance of becoming honest, industrious, and sober. 
If they wanted land, they must work for it ; fill their 
pockets with greenbacks, and buy land ; fling away 
the idea they were to be taken care of ; take their 
places amongst men and earn their own living ; to 
all of which they eagerly assented. 

Colonel Ketchum advised them to emulate their 
neighbors on Edisto Island. When he went to them 
with their old owners to take back their lands, they 
met them manfully and with remarkable dignity. 
They wer^ ready to listen to reason ; if they pledged 
their word, they would stand by it. 

Colonel Trowbridge of the Thirty Third U. S. C. T. 
took this occasion to bid all his soldiers farewell, 
as they were so soon to be mustered out. These im- 
pressible people were much affected by the kind 
words of their old commander. When he ceased 
speaking, this immense crowd were hushed and silent 
for a few moments, and then some one began to sing 
with powerful voice, — 

''Blow ye the trumpet, blow! 
The gladly solemn sound." 

Every one in that vast assemblage joined in the 

singing, and when they came to the chorus, — 

'' The year of jubilee has come, 
Return, ye ransomed sinners, home," 



206 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

th& words rolled out with tremendous force and with 
magnetic effect. 

The soldiers in camp always caught with effusion 
every poem sent them that had a ring to it, and set 
it to music. Sometimes they improvised or originated 
the air, but more frequently they adapted the words 
to some popular tune. In this way their repertoire 
became inexhaustible. 

When the exercises were over and the soldiers 
were about to disperse, they struck* up and sang, con 
amore^ Oliver Wendell Holmes's poem, which was 
published in the Boston Transcript Aug. 12, 1862. 
This had been widely circulated, and became very 
popular. 

To Canaan! 

A SONG OF THE SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND. 

Where are you going, soldiers, 

With banner, gun, and sword ? 
We're marching South to Canaan, 

To battle for the Lord ! 
What captain leads your armies 

Along the rebel coasts ? 
The mighty One of Israel; 
/ His name is Lord of Hosts ! 

To Canaan, to Canaan, 
The Lord has led us forth, 

To blow before the heathen walls 
The trumpets of the North! 

What flag is this you carry 
» Along the sea and shore ? 

The same our grand sires lifted up, ^ 

The same our fathers bore! 



EMANCIPATION JUBILEE 207 

In many a battle's tempest 

It shed the crimson rain ! 
What God has woven in his loom 

Let no man rend in twain ! 

To Canaan, to Canaan, 

The Lord has led us forth, 
To plant upon the rebel towers 

The banners of the North! 

What troop is this that follows 

All armed with picks and spades ? 
These are the swarthy bondsmen, 

The iron-skin brigades ! 
They'll pile up Freedom's breastworks, 

They'll scoop out rebels' graves : 
Who then will be their owner, 

And march them off for slaves ? 

To Canaan, to Canaan, 

The Lord has led us forth. 
To strike upon the captive's chain 

The hammers of the North ! 

What song is this you're singing ? 

The same that Israel sung 
When Moses led the mighty choir, 

And Miriam's timbrel rung! 
To Canaan! to Canaan! 

The priests and maidens cried; 
To Canaan ! to Canaan ! 

The people's voice replied. 

To Canaan, to Canaan, 
The Lord has led us forth. 

To thunder through its adder-dens 
The anthems of the North ! 

When Canaan's hosts are scattered, 

And all her walls lie flat, 
What follows next in order ? 

The Lord will see to that! ] ^ 



208 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

We'll break the tyrant's sceptre; 

We'll build the people's throne — 
When half the world is Freedom's, 

Then all the world's our own! 

To Canaan, to Canaan, 
The Lord has led us forth, 

To sweep the rebel threshing-floors, 
A whirlwind from the North ! 

In time these words became part of — 

*^ I am bound for the Land of Canaan." 



REFUGEES RETUEN HOME 209 



XVII 

BEFUGEES RETURN HOME 

Early the next morning, after the emancipation 
jubilee, we started for Beaufort on the government 
steamer St. Helena. This was a small boat detailed 
for use by the Freedmen's Bureau. There were two 
hundred and seventy-five colored refugees on board, 
under charge of Colonel Ketchum, returning to their 
old homes near Savannah. 

The rain fell steadily all day, and it was extremely 
cold and disagreeable. The poor refugees were hud- 
dled together between decks as close as they could 
stand. There was not room for the sick and infirm 
to sit or lie down, unless the more hardy gave up 
their places and stood outside. 

All these people had belonged to four brothers, so 
they were really one family. When the war broke 
out they were carried to a plantation near Charleston. 
Now they were eager to get back to their old homes, 
on the places where they were born. This love of 
home is universal and intense amongst the negroes. 

I never knew the pathos of the old negro melody: — 

** O darkies, how my heart grows w^eary, 
Far from the old folks at home." 



210 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

I learned its meaning when I learned to know the 
colored refugees. 

Colonel Ketchum, who had these people in charge, 
did his best to make them less uncomfortable. More 
he could not do. It was almost impossible to move 
about without stepping upon some one. Mothers 
hugged their children closely, to keep them from 
under foot. 

How miserable they looked ! My heart ached for 
them then, and does now as I think of them. A few 
had blankets, but most of them had none, and were 
scantily clothed. The heads of families had pro- 
visions, — their "grub," they called it, — tied up 
in "crocus" bags, or in handkerchiefs. I walked 
around and talked with many of them. To my 
question, "How do you do?" they invariably replied, 
"Thank God, I lives!" "Us is so as to be moving 
about, missis." "Us is mending." 

"Aunty, are you not going back too soon?" I said 
to an old woman. I had heard that these people had 
been advised to stay where they were for another 
year. 

" Don' know, missis," she calmly replied. 

" What will you live on when you get home ? " 

" Oh, I 'specs there will be something ; de people 
mus' have something fur eat." 

" But when that is gone what will you do ? " 

" O missis, the good God will tuck care o' we. 
He alluz does." 

That settled it : the good God always does take 
care. There was no complaining ; not a murmur nor 
a querulous tone to be heard. 



REFUGEES RETURN HOME 211 

I had questioned these people because I knew that 
Colonel Ketchum and others of the Freedmen's Bu- 
reau were anxious about their future. They wished 
to keep them under care until the affairs of the 
country became more settled ; but their leaders 
'^considered upon it," and decided they would "con- 
trac' to work the old fields." 

The rain fell in torrents. We were piloted through 
the inside, or what was jocosely called the '' overland 
route." The air was so thick we could not see across 
the boat; of course our progress was very slow. 
We frequently got aground on the sandbars, and 
were obliged to wait for high tide to float us off. 

And so we crept along during the day. Night 
closed in early. Just before dark I saw some men 
going around with pans of bread and hominy, which 
they handed in small bits to the women and children. 

" Us is scarce for grub, an' they mus' satisfy wid a 
little bit at a time," they said. " Them ain't for 
trus," nodding towards the children ; '' they want too 
much." 

Poor creatures ! their hungry looks haunted me 
for a long time. 

After dark I heard loud singing in the forward 
part of the boat, and was told the freedmen were 
holding praise-meeting. Expressing a desire to lis- 
ten to them, the young officer in charge kindly 
offered to pilot me around. So with lantern in hand 
we started out. 

The boat was literally covered with these poor 
destitute creatures. Colonel Ketchum had distrib- 



212 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABAKDS 

uted them around everywhere, trying to make their 
condition more endurable. Some were crouched in 
corners, .and others leaning against the railings, 
whilst the children were put on top of barrels and 
boxes and coils of rope. The women were on the 
floor as close as sardines in a box ; all were settled 
for the night, and they were very quiet. There was 
no moving nor shuffling about, and in the darkness 
it was hard to believe there was such a dense crowd 
of human beings on board. We could with difficulty 
make our way amongst them. 

On one side we saw three women sitting on the 
floor side by side, with their feet extended and a 
poor sick girl lying across their laps. 

" Her too sick to lie on the floor,* an' us try to res' 
she, poor creetur," they said as we stopped to speak 
to them. 

The light from the lantern fell on the sick girl's 
face ; she smiled, and whispered, — 

''I is all right, thank you, ma'am." 

" I am afraid she cannot live until morning," said 
the young colonel with a sigh of compassion. 

When we reached the " praise-meeting " we found 
as many of the old people assembled together as 
could sit or stand. They were outside, and so un- 
sheltered, but fortunately it no longer rained ; the 
wind, however, blew a hurricane. The night was 
very dark, and the people had no light excepting the 
small head-light of the boat; but the leaders ''lined 
off " the hymns, which were sung by all, and repeated 
verses from the Bible from memory. Then they 



HEFtJGEE^ RETTJRN HOME 213 

offered the most fervent prayers, filled with praise 
and thanksgiving for " the bountiful marcies of God," 
unmindful of all the hardships thej^ had endured in 
the past, and of their present discomforts. 

" Surely the Lord will bless these people for their 
implicit faith and trust in Him," we said to each 
other as we left. We might well learn a lesson from 
them which would help us through life. 

When we returned to the cabin, the contrast be- 
tween its light and heat and what we had just seen, 
made us really uncomfortable for a time. But our 
own accommodations were most meagre. In the ladies' 
cabin were six empty berths, with neither mattress, 
blanket, nor pillow ; however, we had all been in 
the ranks long enough to know that whatever we 
needed for personal comfort we must supply for our- 
selves, whether at home or abroad; we were there- 
fore provided, but there were others of our party 
who had nothing. Fortunately the quartermaster in 
Charleston had " turned over " to us a bundle of 
army blankets and a box of soldiers' overcoats, for 
the poor people in our district. We distributed 
these for the night as far as they would go. All 
night long I could hear the poor refugees coughing, 
and the children crying and moaning in their uncom- 
fortable positions ; but we heard no impatient word 
or sigh of complaint. 

We went out to carry a blanket to the sick girl, 
and an overcoat to a very old man. To all our 
questions as we passed along, the invariable reply 
was, — 



214 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

" Oh, thank God, missis ! " 

The next morning we reached Beaufort, and the 
refugees were able to go on shore. The storm was 
over, and the day bright and clear, but the air was 
piercingly cold. 

The freedmen were very glad to walk about and 
stretch their limbs, or sit uncramped in the broad sun- 
shine. As soon as they got on shore, they brought 
out their rations, corn-bread and hominy, which were 
tied up in all sorts of odd bundles, and began to 
eat their breakfast. As the boat was '' to lie over " 
until the next day, to be cleaned and put in order, 
Mr. Judd, superintendent of the island, took charge 
of the refugees, and made them as comfortable as 
circumstances would allow. 



STORM AT SEA 215 



XVIII 

STORM AT SEA 

Our trip to Charleston just before Christmas had 
been a most hazardous time. The wind blew a gale, 
and the night was very dark. Our small boat, the 
Rockland, sprang a-leak, and was tossed about all 
night at the mercy of the wind and waves. The 
freight was thrown overboard, our fires were out, 
and for a time there seemed to be no hope of our 
ever getting ashore ; but as soon as the day dawned, 
the captain succeeded in " beaching " the boat, and 
we lay there all day, tossed about until another 
steamer was sent to hunt us up and take us off. 
We were nearly famished when we reached Charles- 
ton, having had nothing to eat for twenty-four hours. 
The cold was extreme ; we had no place for rest. 

When we returned to school, we found our people 
had heard of the shipwreck, and that we were lost, 
and there had been great excitement in our district. 
After welcoming us back, the leaders asked if we 
would be so pleased as to come to a big praise- 
meeting they wished to hold in the schoolhouse 
the following Sunday. It w^as indeed a big meet- 
ing. The house was literally packed. They made 



216 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTKABANDS 

it a religious jubilee. Their prayers were devout 
thanksgiving to God for " all his marcies " in re- 
turning us in safety, and earnest promises to do their 
best by us. "Stan' fast an' you shall see;" this was 
the gist of the whole ; expressed as it was in their 
uncouth phraseology, it was certainly unique. 

Miss Lizzie, who had never been to one of these 
meetings before, was greatly entertained by the ex- 
pressions of a stranger, one of the soldiers, who 
made quite a lengthy address. He began by say- 
ing, — 

*' I can't read. My heart is my Bible. I can't run far wid you. 
I'm a stranger to you, but not to God. You mus' use all de mir- 
acles. Christ say you nuis' reflec' on the days of Ninevy. The 
lady hab a hard fight to git here. Go an' remant about it. Let 
prayers be your pocket-piece. Charity, as de lady tells you, don' 
jes' mean 'git your money w'en you hab him.' It's like dis, jes' 
so you meet ole lady comin' Bufort, you ax ole lady ride ; ole lady 
say, ^ T'ank you,' or dat a sort, but hab great t'anks in him own 
heart. Dat's charity; dat's greater dan money." 

When the meeting was over there was such a gen- 
eral shaking of hands, one of the young ladies de- 
clared her arm felt like a pump-handle nearly 
worked off. 

"Misery in the Head^ Ma amy 

The weather continued frightfully cold, and there 
was great destitution around us. 

The contrabands continued to come to us so con- 
stantly on Sundays for medicine, we decided they 
must regard this as they did clothing, something to 
be secured against time of need. But I am sure 



"MISERY IN THE HEAD, MA'AM " 217 

they came as much for a little chat, — " advice " 
they called it, — as for anything else. 

This first Sunday a woman brought her baby, 
who was very ill. The poor mother looked really 
anxious, but was quiet and phlegmatic. I asked 
what was the matter with the baby. 

'' Can't say, ma'am." 

"Has she a cold?" 

" I 'specs so, for him breathe bad." 

I looked at the poor little creature, who seemed 
to me hopelessly ill. "I am afraid your baby is 
in a very bad way," I said. To which she calmly 
replied, — 

" I 'specs so, missis." 

" What have you done for her? " 

" I ain't done nothing, missis. I ain't had nothing 
for give." 

On all such occasions I was greatly puzzled to 
know what to do or say, for I was as ignorant 
as the poor mother herself. I tried to make her 
understand how important warmth and cleanliness 
were for her child. I gave her nourishment for the 
baby and food for herself, and she left quite cheered 
up. The next day her little girl came to me, and, 
making a courtesy, said, " Titty say t'ank you 
ma'am, baby is died." 

I did not know why she thanked me. Whether 
for what I had tried to do, or in answer to my ex- 
pected inquiry about the little one. 

This woman was one who had " half a husband," 
having been for a long time the wife of Pompey, 



218 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

whose first wife was carried off up country '' in old 
secesh times." But during the war, wife number one 
returned to the old quarters. Pompey immediately 
left woman number two to take care of herself and 
two children, and returned to the woman who was 
his first choice. 

There were a great many such cases, which neither 
moral nor civil law could adjust. 

About this time small-pox broke out in our neigh- 
borhood, and made sad work. Black Sally was tell- 
ing the young ladies about this one day, when she 
exclaimed, ''Look out. Miss Lizzie, small -pox very 
love fat folks," as if this was a most cheerful sub- 
ject. 

The patience- of the freed people in sickness was 
so general and remarkable, it seemed like apathy. 

One day I went to see Violet, a refugee from 
Georgia, who was very ill. Her door was closed, 
but a neighbor who was on guard inserted a stick 
in a crack in the door, and so lifted the latch. 

" Eleven weeks I have been in bed," said the sick 
woman, '' but I have made up my mind to leave all 
with God. He will not put more on me than I can 
bear." 

I looked at her in astonishment, and wondered if 
I could learn such patience and submission under all 
trials. Her room was scrupulously neat, and in good 
order. She had formerly been house-servant, and be- 
longed to kind owners. 

Old Richard lived at the negro quarters. He was 
ill, and at times a great sufferer. But when talking 
with me he always ended with, — 



PREPARING FOR WORK 219 

'' Thank God, ma'am ! it is all done now. I have 
laid myself in the hands of the Big Massa, an' he 
will take me up an' put me down as he fin's for my 
good, an' I can only bless his name." 

Richa'rd was quite a remarkable man, with but few 
of the peculiar characteristics of his race. He had 
had some exceedingly hard experiences, but when we 
spoke of them he always ended with, — 

" Thank God ! it's all done, now." 

Preparing for Work. 

At the beginning of the year the contrabands in our 
district were eager to renew their contracts with the 
same superintendent who had been with them the 
last year. In January they began to gather sedge 
and marsh-mud to fertilize their fields. This work 
greatly interrupted their attendance at school. But 
all, even the oldest, clung to their books, and were 
unwilling to be dropped out. 

They regarded the enrollment as a title of honor, 
and to be scratched off the list a dishonor. 

''Let Them starve and die.^^ 

One day a stranger came to see us, who was intro- 
duced as the new superintendent for the whole island. 
He told us a bill had just been passed in Congress to 
give to the freed people on Edisto Island the use of 
all the land there for three years ; also that three 
million acres of land were to be set apart and given 
them. 

We felt this was good news, if true, and if the 



220 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

''act," or bill, would hold; but we were distrustful 
after so many disappointments. 

The new officer was indifferent to the welfare of 
the people under his charge. Like some other gov- 
ernment officers, he spoke of the freed people as if 
they were a herd of cattle. 

I find recorded, March 4, 1866, "If we had the 
right kind of superintendents, there would be no 
trouble with the colored people. As it is, more is 
done to unsettle and dishearten them than to help 
them on. They need to be advised and encouraged, 
instead of which, they are ordered about and cheated." 

A great many speculators were flocking into the 
department, to buy and lease the old plantations. 
The contrabands were ready to do anything for their 
friends in whom they had faith, but they were sus- 
picious of strangers. They were not idle or lazy. 
On the contrary, they seemed to have a passion for 
work. But they knew nothing of order, or system, 
or economy of time. So nine-tenths of their labor 
went for nothing. In this particular they needed so 
much help, and got so little. They wanted a clear, 
judicious head to plan for them. Very few of the 
planters or teachers would see this, or take the 
trouble. 

" Him ainH much on de Needle.''^ 

Most of the woman around us had always been 
field-hands, and they knew nothing of any other 
kind of work. 

One of the old men came to me to signify his ap- 



"HIM ain't much ok DE NEEDLE " 221 

probation of his wife^s learning to sew. He apolo- 
gized for her deficiency by saying, " Him ain't much 
on de needle, but him's great on de hoe." 

A woman who came to school did not know what 
a book was for, nor how to hold it. She looked as if 
she thought learning was something we could drop 
into her hands, and she gazed with great curiosity at 
the book when given to her, turning it cautiously 
round and round in her hand. Finally, she fixed her 
eyes steadily upon it, as she saw the children doing. 
The next time I passed her I found her closely scan- 
ning the page with her book upside down. She was 
greatly amused when I turned it and set her right. 
After this she got on bravely. She told me she sat 
up half the night ''to catch her lesson." Her hus- 
band came and thanked me for my help to his wife, 
saying he was " quite willing to give her a chance to 
get a little school larning." He spoke of her as if she 
were his slave. A manner most of the colored men 
had. 

When we drove past the negro houses, the men and 
women often came out with their books and begged 
us to give them lessons in reading, which we did, sit- 
ting in the wagon. They had profound respect for 
education, and felt that if they could read they would 
come nearer to the white race, and could better com- 
pete with them ; all of which was true. 

One night in June we had a cyclone, which blew 
down our schoolhouse and twisted off the tops of 
some magnificent live-oaks, so they hung by fibres, 
like wisps of straw. A most intelligent schoolboy 
came to tell us of this disaster. 



222 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

" Dem folks coming from the fields say we school- 
house is done bio wed down ! " he exclaimed. 

" O Tom ! Tom ! You forget your grammar," 
said one of the 3^oung ladies. 

" That's so, Miss Fannie. Yur must really excuse 
me this time ; I done forget," he replied, bowing and 
chuckling. 

This reminds me of a little girl in the Frogmore 
School who was trying to parse sister. She was 
greatly puzzled about the gender for a time, then she 
exclaimed in triumph, waving her hands, — 

" Him's feminine. Miss Ellen ! Him's a gal ! " 

Poor and plain as our schoolhouse was, it was all 
we had. When we saw it lying in ruins, we real- 
ized how important a part of our lives its poor walls 
had become, and how impossible to do without them. 
We literally sat down to weep over these ruins. 

This cyclone did great damage all over the island. 
At '' Quartermaster's Village," a negro settlement, 
the houses were overturned as if made of paper, and 
several persons were killed and wounded. 

The Midnight Funeral. 

A young colored sergeant just returned from the 
army died, and was buried at midnight. He had 
lived at the negro quarters, not far from us. He died 
a little after dark. His friends immediately assem- 
bled and held a watch-meeting, which they call " a 
setting-up." All night long we could hear their sol- 
emn chanting and clapping of hands, as they beat the 
time. They had a praise-meeting before the house, 



FIRST EXAMINATION 223 

as they believe the spirit remains with the body 
until daylight, when it takes leave and goes home to 
the heavenly Father as the morning stars go out. 

The comrades of the young sergeant wished to 
bury him with military honors, so they waited until 
the next night at midnight. They had a long pro- 
cession, with torches and a muffled drum. Then al). 
the women and children straggled along, singing their 
spirituals. It was a sombre sight as this sable pro- 
cession wound around through the grove. As the 
tones of their spirituals reverberated through the 
arches of this '' God's first temple," I was reminded 
of the Pilgrim's March in Tannhauser. 

The freed people had many quaint expressions. At 
one of the festivals the women were delighted with 
the display of Christmas gifts. One exclaimed, ''I 
should like to keep this in my eyes forever." 

A girl brought a letter from her brother for us to 
read to her. They had just lost their mother. He 
wrote, '' I hope my mother is gone to heben, becoze 
it is a better place for she to live, an' never die no 
more." 

First Examination. 

This first examination was an event in the neigh- 
borhood. Old men and women came early, to see 
and hear what was being done : — the man usually 
with the wreck of a huge umbrella under his arm, and 
the woman with spotless kerchief carefully folded 
and tied around her head. 

One of the boys wrote pait of an example given 



224 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

him, then became confused, and, scratching his head 
as he puzzled over it, exclaimed, — 

" Oh, talk him over. Miss Fannie ! Talk him over," 
wishing to have the question repeated. 

The copy-books were handed around for inspec- 
tion. One woman having her child's book given her, 
showed it with great pride to those sitting near, de- 
claring she was " proud for mad," and " glad for mad," 
that her child ''could larn for write like that." 
Looking over her shoulder I saw she was showing the 
book " bottom side up." I turned it for her, when 
she said apologetically, — 

'' Dem chillen know a heap more'na me. When 
they come home they talk so smart, I ain't know 
what they say, but I is proud all the same." 

This woman voiced the feelings of all the others. 
It is needless to say her children went on and up. 
Before they got beyond her ken she was called to a 
higher sphere. 

We liad many and far more important examinations 
and exhibitions as the years went on, but none so 
full of interest as this first one. 



HARD TIMES 225 



XIX 

HARD TIMES 

Ik the winter of 1865 all the freed people in our 
district were working with a will. But we could not 
forget that only two years before this most of these 
people were in slavery '' on the main." They came 
off destitute of everything. The superintendents were 
obliged to advance provisions to them before they 
could begin to work. The superintendent of our dis- 
trict bought provisions at as low price as possible, and 
furnished them to the negroes at cost. But on a 
neighboring plantation the manager kept a store, from 
which he paid his hands, charging extravagant 
prices. So in the end the people were always in debt 
to him, and had nothing to begin the new year with. 
They had no clothing, and no money to buy any. 
The quartermaster's clerk in Charleston sent us a 
box with one hundred and fifty new garments for 
men, women, and children ; but we were able to give 
only one garment apiece, and had not enough to go 
around. The report was constantly circulated that 
under the most favorable circumstances the colored 
people would never be able to take care of themselves. 

True, the freed people had never practised care and 



226 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

economy of material. How could they, when they 
had never owned anything to care for? Like all 
ignorant and neglected poor, they were careless and 
improvident to the last degree. 

The year the war closed the freed people in our 
district realized three thousand dollars from the sale 
of their cotton. Besides, they made good crops of 
corn and other provisions. This encouraged them so 
much, they decided to plant more cotton and less corn 
the next year. Then prices went down, and the yield 
of cotton was light, so they got only between three 
and four hundred dollars in money ; and bef6re the 
beginning of the working season all were out of pro- 
visions. They were obliged to pay three dollars a 
bushel for corn, and for other necessaries accordingly. 
Of course they got in debt before the w^orking season 
began. They were compelled to give a lien upon the 
crops they raised, or equivalent to a mortgage upon 
their year's labor. 

On some of the islands near us the freed people 
hired and bought land, and worked independent of 
any white superintendent. Some of the finest cotton 
in market was made by these people. 

The negroes on the mainland had desperate times. 
They lived on roots and the acorns from the woods. 
These were the old refugees who had been under our 
care and had returned to their former homes. It was 
trying to see these people working so hard, with such 
poor results, whilst we were powerless to save them 
from sharpers. 

The contrabands around us were docile and simple- 



officers' inspection 227 

hearted. The superintendent started a small store 
to sell hominy and meat and other provisions. We 
called this " the people's store," for the old men were 
always called upon to help, and were very proud of 
this office. 

A woman whom I knew, came from another plan- 
tation to tell me how things were going there. The 
superintendent had refused to advance more provis- 
ions. At the end she said, — 

" Well, ef it mus' be so, some o' them peoples mus' 
dead from hunger, sure." This was in the blackberry 
season. All the people had gone to town to sell ber- 
ries to buy provisions. 

"1 tell Joe to hurry right back," she continued, 
"so my mother could have something to eat. I don't 
see what the people can do. They is punish too bad." 
To this we heartily agreed ; they were punished too 
bad. 

Officers^ Inspection. 

A large party of government officials came to see 
us. We were told they wished for information about 
the freedmen; but instead of asking questions, they 
gave us their preconceived opinions. One of the offi- 
cers was making a tour of inspection from Washing- 
ton to Texas, and the assistant commissioner for South 
Carolina was showing his department. I find this 
in my note-book of that date : — 

** They profess to be acting for the Freedmen's Bureau, but 
manifest no interest in the freed people, nor in what is done or left 
undone for them. They came with fixed opinions, and do not 



228 FIRST DAYS WITH THE COiSTTRABANDS 

wish to hear nor see anything to change these opinions. We de- 
cide they are for the President, against the Bureau.'' 

1867. 

These were, indeed, trying days for the poor con- 
trabands. So many of the planters had failed to keep 
their contracts with them for the last year, that now 
they had nothing to show for their labor, and they 
were quite destitute. Most of the white planters had 
become discouraged by the low price of cotton, so the 
negroes were obliged to work their small ten-acre lots. 
All the men and women worked famously, beginning 
early to list and prepare the ground for planting. 
They were industrious, and tried hard to take care of 
themselves. When they failed, it was through igno- 
rance. Many of the white men had become discour- 
aged and given up planting, and the freedmen had 
neither money nor provisions. The work of recon- 
struction was slow and tedious. We might as well 
expect a new-born infant to become a man in four 
years as that this race, newly born to freedom, should 
become self-supporting and self-protecting at once. 

When the working season came on, the men and 
women could only come to the school part of the 
time ; they must " slack off a little," they said. So 
some came the first half of the day, and the others 
the last. It was gratifying to see the marked improve- 
ment in the cleanliness and general appearance of 
the children. They kept their clean aprons, etc., 
by them in the field ready to put on when they came 
to school. 



im 229 

We gave out new trousers and jackets to some 
very little boys. A few days after we dismissed 
them, and told them to run home, as it was beginning 
to rain. 

'' But I must take off my jacket first," said one lit- 
tle fellow not more than four years old. Thereupon 
all took off their jackets and rolled them up and put 
them under their arms, marching off unmindful of 
the rain and our remonstrances. It was difficult to 
draw the line for them between too much and too lit- 
tle care. 

The freed people began to settle upon their own 
ten-acre lots, but only a few were able to build houses ; 
the rest lived in mud-huts, and in any way by which 
they could construct a shelter. 

The returned soldiers were trying to secure their 
back pay and bounties, and we struggled in vain to 
help them. 

Those days of reconstruction were times of constant 
delays and vain expectations and disappointments. 

Just at this crisis our letters stopped coming to us. 
We were told the steamers between Charleston and 
Savannah had brought the mail only as an accommo- 
dation. The proprietors had decided to do this no 
longer, and were waiting for some regular arrange- 
ments to be made. Of course we imagined the office 
in Charleston was '' slopping over " with letters, and 
that most important events were waiting to be re- 
vealed to us. 

It was reported the express agent was to start off 
loaded with mail matter from our benighted region. 



230 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

We wrote our friends not to be alarmed if they heard 
nothing more from us at present ; they would know 
we were waiting to be reconstructed, and to pray with 
us, " God speed the right." 

When drum-fish came it seemed a signal for a gen- 
eral holiday. All the men and older boys must have 
at least one day of sport in fishing. So the smaller 
children were kept at home to ''mind fowls" and 
''mind birds;" that is, scare the crows from the corn. 

Now the freedmen began to interest themselves in 
politics, feeling for the first time that they had a part 
in public affairs. I must confess, "carpet-baggers" 
sprang up in this vicinity like caterpillars over the 
growing cotton-fields. The poor contrabands might 
well exclaim, " Save me from my friends, and I will 
take care of the enemy ! " 

April 15, 1867, there was a large " ratification " 
meeting in Beaufort, S.C. A colored Republican 
club was inaugurated, the first ever formed. The 
freed people seemed to be equal to the demands made 
upon them, and readily to assimilate with their new 
conditions. There was no doubt the world was 
moving. 

About this time Rev. Mr. Elliot, an Episcopal 
clergyman, son of a distinguished rebel officer, deliv- 
ered a lecture intended to unite the tv/o factions. 
Northerners and Southerners. There was a crowded 
house, with about an equal number from each sec- 
tion. This was really the first attempt at coalition. 
People around us began to say the Southerners were 
ready to let "bygones be bygones." How was it with 



1867 23r 

us ? Many of the old residents had returned to the 
town, despoiled of everything they had once pos- 
sessed. A few were able to get back their old 
homes, but others went into small dwellings and 
hired houses. Their property had been confiscated, 
and their possessions scattered. They had neither 
houses nor furniture nor servants. Many ladies most 
delicately reared were obliged to take up menial ser- 
vice. With all our hearts we pitied them and de- 
plored their misfortunes. 

The Southern ladies were true to their antecedents. 
They bravely took up their duties without complaint, 
and never asked for help. But a large class of 
women living at the South constantly bemoaned their 
condition. They asked for sympathy and aid, whilst 
despising the hand that helped them. The term 
" Yankee" was to them the synonyme for all that was 
base and mean. 

'' Do you charge as much for French lessons as for 
music? " said a lady to a Southerner who was seeking 
employment. 

'' Oh, yes ; I find I am obliged to do like all you 
Yankee women, earn my own living, and make all 
the money I can," she replied, with a toss of her head. 
To which her hostess answered she hoped she would 
feel as did the best of the Northern women, that labor 
was no disgrace, but an honor when well done. 

A Southern woman, one of the '•'- poor whites," 
called upon a Northerner one day, and begged for 
sewing. She told a pitiful tale of distress and hard 
times, saying it had not always been so with her. I 



232 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

have noticed it is this class of people, those who had 
not much to lose, who complain most of loss of fortune 
and estate. 

The lady told her to come the next day and she 
would find something for her to do. So at the 
appointed time she gave into her own hands a full 
dress pattern, and the woman went away very happy. 
A short time after this a small colored girl came to 
the lady and said, '' Missis wants you to ^end three 
yards more of cloth to finish your gown." The lady 
was greatly surprised, but said she would call and see 
her mistress. 

When she arrived she found the woman in a 
towering rage. She burst out at once, — 

" Did you bring the cloth ? If I had it, what do 
you think has become of it? " 

The lady mildly replied that was what she came to 
see about. 

'^ Yes," said the woman with a sneer, ''none but a 
nigger or a mean Yankee would ever ask what became 
of a piece of cloth. You must know that nine yards 
won't make a dress, for I don't doubt you were a 
dressmaker at home." This she doubtless considered 
the sharpest cut of all. But her sarcasm fell short of 
the mark. My Northern friend was surprised and 
repelled, but by no means angry. 

We were soon able to discriminate between the old 
residents, for we saw that the " old aristocracy " were 
quiet and reserved, saying but little of the past or the 
present. The ladies lived in great seclusion, but 
when brought face to face with strangers always 
showed themselves courteous and refined. 



1867 233 

It was curious and interesting to watch the changes 
going on around us on all sides. Our colored cook, 
who was a very shrewd woman, referring to the 
Southerners, said, — 

'' You jes' let 'em 'lone, ma'am. Yur never know 
which way a cat is going to jump." 



234 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTKABANDS 



XX 

WITH THE FREEDMEN 

No longer Contrabands. 

In the meantime, the freedmen were struggling 
along as best they could. The children tried to sell 
blackberries, but this fruit was so abundant that nobody 
wanted to buy. The highest price was three cents 
for two quarts, and the children walked five or six 
miles to get this. We could di'aw government ra- 
tions, — a little corn and pork for the oldest and most 
helpless of the people ; but we were obliged to give 
provisions — meat, flour, salt, hominy, and soap — to a 
large number of field-hands. Our Northern friends 
sent us funds to enable us to do this, always trying 
to strengthen our hands. 

The women were desirous to keep their children in 
school, but they needed their help at home. So they 
came to beg us to give them their " lessons quick," 
and send them back ; " for the grass shines mightily in 
the cotton," said one woman. 

We were obliged to give up one of our teachers in 
the spring, and we had to reduce the number of 
scholars in attendance. No one wished to be dropped 
out. They made most touching appeals to Miss 



WITH THE FUEEDMEN 236 

Fannie, who kept the record, not to scratch off their 
name^. 

" Just me one, you know. Miss Fannie," they would 
plead. 

In giving out clothing, we were obliged to be 
careful not to arouse discontent, where so much was 
needed. Cleanliness must be rewarded; but the 
untidiness of the children was the fault of the par- 
ents ; and in most cases we knew the mothers could 
do no better. They were always working away from 
home, and the children were left to care for them- 
selves. 

In the autumn steam cotton-gins had been started 
in the town and on remote plantations. Two or 
three hundred women were employed in the cotton- 
barns. They " sorted " and " molted " the cotton, 
worked it through the gin, sifted the seed, and helped 
to pack and sew the bags. Whilst this interrupted 
our school work, we were gratified when told by the 
proprietors that we had the most reliable class of 
women, and the best workers of any to be found. 
They always sent to our district when help was 
needed. 

Many mothers started long before daylight, and 
walked four or five miles to town. Sometimes they 
took their rations for breakfast and dinner with 
them, and sometimes those were brought later by the 
children. They worked from daylight till dark, and 
then walked home after dark. For this they received 
forty and fifty cents a day, and fed themselves. The 
cotton-dealers felt they could not afford to give more 



236 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

in these unsettled times. This little was a great help 
to the poor freed people, who had not received, a cent 
of money for their year's labor. Planters did not 
sell their crops until very late, and could not pay 
until this was done. 

We were sure that a lazy or bad ^oman would not 
walk ten miles a day to earn half a dollar to buy 
bread for her family. If she did not keep them tidy 
as we wished, we had no heart to complain. We felt 
that the condition of these people, and the restrictions 
on labor, were but little understood. We were con- 
vinced that plenty to eat would harmonize and Chris- 
tianize them faster than hymns and sermons ; and that 
needles and thread and soap and decent clothing were 
the best educators, and would civilize sooner than 
book knowledge. 

The colored women seemed to delight more in an 
old garment than a new one. They felt at liberty to 
cut and alter and patch it ad libitum; besides it 
gave them excuse for asking for " one needle and a 
leetle bit o' thread," which they always got. 

At one time we had thirty new plaid worsted 
dresses all cut and basted sent us for the seAving- 
school. The girls were delighted ; but when they 
carried them home, the mothers considered them alto- 
gether too short. It was highly indecorous to have 
the feet and ankles show below the dress ; so they 
pieced them out, often with most unsuitable material, 
putting old cloth with the new, and a cotton frill to 
a worsted skirt. One woman got new cloth, which 
she inlaid to widen and lengthen and enlarge her 



WITH THE FREEDMEN 2C7 

child's gown. It looked, when done, like a modern 
''crazy quilt." It was very odd, but really not ugly. 

For a time very many little children died. It was 
not possible to see they had the care given to the 
young in better conditions. From this the assertion 
arose that '•' the colored people were fast dying out." 

April 1, 1867, government rations began to be dis- 
tributed in our district, but these were limited to a 
very few persons ; only aged people too infirm to 
work, and invalids who had no relations, and mother- 
less children, were to be rationed. Each grown per- 
son received seven pounds of hominy and one and 
three-quarters pounds of bacon a week. Children 
were to draw half this amount. All else, soap, salt, 
sugar, flour, and molasses, and sometimes rice and 
candles, were furnished by us. 

We could not say of these people they had no 
family ; the poorest were blessed with relatives. We 
could only repeat what was often said to us, " none 
of any account." So we were forced to ration not 
only those who were sick, but those who took care of 
them. 

We had in care old Aunt Mila, who was a widow 
and childless and very infirm ; also old Aunt Peg, 
who could only " min' child." Speaking of her 
master, who was very white-headed, she said, — 

'' Oh, massa ain't old as me. Us been playfellows 
togedder. But massa ain't stan' lika me, ma'am. 
Hard work an' beatin' about make us grow ole too 
fast. Us been ole w'en him young. Massa lib soft 
w'en us lib hard." 



238 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

One morning early we were told old Daddy Isaac 
had gone home. He had been helpless for a long 
time. With his snow-white head and grizzly beard, 
he seemed like a breathing image of the pictures of 
death in the old-fashioned catechisms. 

As I stood by his grave I thought how glorious 
heaven must seem to this poor old man, so despised 
and rejected and beat about here. How he would 
wonder to find himself ministered to by the angels, 
when his highest wish here had been to have me put 
something into his hands to eat. 

" Yourself, missis, please. Right in my hand here," 
he would say, and whatever I gave him he received 
with great satisfaction. I have thought sometimes 
that perhaps it seemed like a communion service to 
the old man to have the bread broken for him. 

All his life he had lain on a blanket on the floor ; 
I tried to have him put on a bed, but he declined : — 

'' Oh, no, missis, I t'ank you," he said. '* Oh, no ; 
kase this place is used to me." 

Settling down. 

During the war our island had been stripped of 
everything ; so when the freed people began to work 
for themselves they had nothing but their hands and 
hoes to work with ; no animals, and no agricultural 
implements. 

Some of the men and women built for themselves 
" mud-huts," so as to live on their own lands. These 
were sometimes called " camps," in which the peo- 
ple lived in the most, miserable manner. These huts 



WITH THE FREEDMEN 239 

might be safe in Lapland, but were sure death on the 
sea-islands. The newly upturned earth above and 
beneath them was full of malarious poison. 

These huts consisted of four rough posts from six 
to eight feet high, with sides of plank, which the 
people split from the pine-trees in the woods. The 
pine boughs were laid on the top for a roof, and this 
was covered with a thick coating of mud from the 
swamps. There was no floor and no chimney. The 
dwellers sat and slept on the ground, and built their 
fires on one side, letting the smoke go out of the 
cracks. When it rained, the place was flooded, and 
when the sun came out the steaming mass sent out 
mostnoxioas gases. 

In June we had eight days of constant rain, a 
most unusual storm for the season. In the midst of 
one of the heaviest showers a freedman came to tell 
me his little girl was very sick, and there was no 
place in his camp where they could keep her from 
the water. Before we could arrange to have her 
removed, the little creature died. 

This is a picture of the condition of very many 
others. They went into these huts against the wishes 
and advice of their best friends, in order to save rent 
or any tax upon their next crops. They wanted to 
save something to help build houses for themselves. 

When the young and able-bodied people were out 
of provisions, we were advised to advance a little to 
them, keeping an account, which they were to pay 
when their cotton was picked and sold. This was to 
help them to be independent. It was hard for these 



240 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

working people to be told, as they were sometimes, 
that they must not eat as much as they wanted, and 
must be thankful not to starve. 

One morning I found a man who had once been 
house-servant waiting to see me. He tried, to speak, 
but broke down and began to cryl At last he told 
me he came for help; he and his wife and five chil- 
dren had not a mouthful of food. I asked why he 
did not come to me before. 

'' O ma'am, I so shame for come ! When the 
people comes all the time for trouble you, it 'pears 
like they wants to 'pose upon you," he said. 

Another day a little boy from '' Hangman's 
Swamp" came to us before breakfast. He was not 
more than eight years old, and had walked ten miles, 
bringing with him half a dozen green apples, so as 
not to come empty-handed. His mother was ill, and 
she begged for English flour and molasses. She had 
six children to feed, and nothing for them to eat. 
They were refugees from Georgia. The weather 
was so bad it was not possible to send the little fellow 
off that day, but the next morning as soon as it was 
light he was started off. Knowing the circumstances 
of the family, we pictured to ourselves the eagerness 
of the other little ones as they hurried out of the 
woods to the main road, to watch for the coming of 
their brother, who was sure to bring them relief. 

Events rushed on so fast, one could be only just 
noted when others more important would spring up. 
Immediately after the little boy's visit another mes- 
senger came to tell us the sick mother had died and 



WITH THE FREEDMEN 241 

they had no burial clothes for her. The woman who 
brought this message had also walked the ten miles 
before breakfast. We sent Uncle Ned to take her 
part of the way back in the buggy. Besides the 
needed clothes for burial, she took with her such 
provisions as she could carry on her head. 

Misfortunes. 

In the autumn of 1867 we found a poor condition 
of affairs. Many things had seemed to conspire 
against the freed people ; unprecedented rains the 
first of the season; then caterpillars, which came 
two years in succession, instead of once in seven 
years, as formerly reported. These were followed by 
sickness everywhere, until the strength and courage 
of the freedmem were gone. The Northern people 
around us were disheartened. But some Southerners 
— ''poor whites," in the town, who had nothing to 
lose, — looked upon these untoward circumstances as a 
special manifestation of God's wrath. The colored 
people were the most hopeful. All they asked was 
work to do ; so the men and boys went to Savannah 
to help gather the rice-crop, whilst the women 
picked the - cotton thinly scattered over the fields, 
which they carried to town on their heads to sell. 

Smart mid Mary Washington. 

These were two of the most intelligent and thrifty 
people around us. They had bought land and built 
a little house, and had made a large crop of corn as 
well as of cotton. Their house was a home as well 



242 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

as a haven of rest for all of '' massa's niggers " who 
needed such. But they themselves never asked for 
help. 

Old Maria, a '^ fellow-sarvent " who had " refugeed '* 
with them, became ill, so she dragged herself to 
Smart's house, knowing she would be taken in and 
cared for. They did what they could for her. She 
was '' one o' massa's niggers," and she had " no 'fam- 
ily," which means a great deal to the colored people. 
She was helpless, and had come there to die. 

Just after the crops were gathered in and stored. 
Smart's house took fire and burned down. Trying 
to save the poor old helpless woman, he and Mary 
lost everything else. In this disaster I thought the 
old man's courage would surely fail. On the con- 
trary, he said, — 

" The Big Massa do all things, an' if this be him 
will, it ought to be my pleasure, an' it shall be." 

They built a '' shelter tent " over the old woman, 
until we could have her removed to a cabin, and 
Mary '* minded " her by day and Smart by night. 
Very soon the '' Big Massa " sent his angels to carry 
the poor helpless creature home. Smart came and 
begged me 'Ho funeralize the body." 

''There mus' be something in your prayer-book 
you kin read for a funeral sarmon," he said. He also 
begged me to read the nineteenth chapter of Revela- 
tion, " Blessed are they wliich are called unto the 
marriage supper of the Lamb." " And does it not 
tell you to ' write ? ' " asked the old man. 

We had the service out-of-doors. The sun shone 



WITH THE FREEDMEK 243 

warm and bright as we stood around the rude coffin 
made of rough boards. Smart was strenuous that no 
word of the burial service should be omitted, even to 
the sprinkling of ashes on the coffin. 

Miss Fannie wrote to some friends in the North 
of Smart's misfortunes and patience — for he came 
" to revise with me according to his distrust " (dis- 
tress) — and these friends sent money for us to build 
him a house. When we told him of this, and that 
there should be a good chimney and glazed windows 
and a piazza, he could not speak. As he said later, — 

" The water splash all over my face. My heart's 
so full, I'se 'bleged to cry." 

Soon after the old people were settled in their new 
house. Smart found his brother, a poor half-witted 
fellow, and brought him home to stay. He had 
always been good-natured, but was " an innocent," 
they called him. Long before the war the overseer 
set him a hard task, which he failed to do ; so he 
ran away and hid until he was starved out, when he 
came back. For this the overseer ordered an anklet 
to be forged on to his left ankle, which was done. 
But the poor fellow "howled so," they threw water 
upon the hot iron, which scalded all the flesh. The 
iron band was taken off, but the wound never healed. 

During the war Smart lost sight of his brother; 
but as soon as he found him he brought him " home 
to die." He and his family were greatly rejoiced to 
find the wanderer. 

He only lived a short time, so Smart came again to 
beg me "to funeralize the body." But when I 



244 FIRST DAYS WITH THE COKTRABAKBS 

reached the house the '' box " for the body was not 
made. '' No matter," said the old man ; " please read 
the sarvice, then we has nothing to do but put him 
in the box and kiver him up," which I proceeded to 
do, whilst a man scattered real ashes over the body. 
Truly "no matter " ! In spite of his hard past, and his 
present rough surroundings, he had inherited the 
kingdom ; the same promises given to the highest 
in the land were his. 

Good Mary Washington did not long enjoy the 
comforts, I may say luxuries, of her new house. 
When she died, Smart was indeed bereaved. He 
said, '' I am lonesome to death." He sent word he 
wished to see me, " for I am pretty much cut up 
now." 

I appointed an interview, and he came looking most 
forlorn, and said, — 

" I can't live so, I declar', ma'am ; I jes' begin to 
miss Mary. Now the old woman is a great missing 
everywhere ; the very dumb animals is all broke up 
an' mourn for him so ; an' w'en I hear the creeturs 
cry, it cuts like a sword through my heart." 

Then shuffling and looking down he said, "I t'inks, 
ma'am, I mus' have some gal come to stay wid me an' 
keep my house." 

" But Mary has not been dead two months ! " I ex- 
claimed, surprised. 

" That's so, ma'am ; but I can't live so." 

I thought his lot was a hard one, so I told him to 
be very careful who he chose, for there were not 
many girls who could fill good Mary's place. 



WITH THE :freedmen 245 

'' Oh, I is keerf ul," he said. " I done pick him out 
already ; a real likely gal. I 'specs to make a wife 
of him." 

I was not a little astonished, but told him to bring 
the girl for me to see. 

''I done bring him already," said the old man. 
Thereupon he opened the door, and beckoned to some 
one. 

''Scrape your foot, gal, and show the lady your 
manners," said he. 

His intended bride was a coarse, stolid-looking ne- 
gress, middle-aged, without any of the gentleness 
and real refinement which belonged to Aunt Mary. 
She assured me she " t'ink well of the ole man, an' 
was sure to do her best." 

But she was so taken up gazing around the room, 
and taking note of all the new and curious things 
she saw, she paid but little heed to what was said to 
her. 

Smart's new wife proved a "poor investment." 
Not many months after the marriage both begged me 
to come and settle some domestic difficulties ; but 
there seemed no hope of readjustment, and after 
several trials I advised the old man to return the 
woman to her former home on the Shell Road, which 
he gladly did. 

Blind Josey had been enrolled in school, and 
he always insisted upon standing in a class and re- 
peating the lesson after the other children. He died, 
and I was asked to go to the '' back field " and read 



246 FIEST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

the burial service. I found the rough box put on a 
small table out-of-doors ; a piece of white cloth, 
evidently a skirt ripped up, covered it, and on this 
the school-children had placed some flowers. I read 
the service as requested, and ashes were thrown over 
the box, after which it was put i^to a mule-cart. 
Then the poor mother, who was lame, came out with 
an old coat over her head, and took a seat on the box. 
The procession started, the school-children following 
behind vociferously singing. When they reached the 
grave, the leader told them to " put down the box, 
and kiver it up, for the missis had done buried it 
already." 

Some Northern friends came to see us, and we took 
them one night to a " praise-meeting." Uncle Major, 
the leader, thanked the Lord " for allowing " our 
friends to come here. " Dey who t'ink it no robbery 
to leave dar homes an' 'biding-places to come here to 
stop wid we for a season." 



THANKSGIVING 247 



XXI 

THANKSGIVING 

When Thanksgiving Day came in 1867, we wished 
to remember the time with our Northern friends. 
We had peace if not plenty, and were contented if 
not comfortable. By we I mean the colored peo- 
ple. In the virtue of patience and contentment 
they led. We decided to introduce this day to 
the very old people, so we gave thirty men and 
women one pound of hacon^ and a pint of molasses ; 
this was all we could do. But they declared with 
great glee this was the first Thanksgiving they ever 
had. 

Nov. 26, 1868, was appointed as a national Thanks- 
giving. The governor of South Carolina also i§- 
sued a proclamation for the observance of that day. 
I do not know that this was the first Thanksgiving 
proclamation ever issued in the State, but it was the 
first after the war, and the first in which the negroes 
could participate. 

My young companion was jubilant over this. She 
wrote home : — 

"How nice it is to be once more in the Union, and to have the 
same holidays as our Northern friends. Think of us now as recon- 



248 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTKABAKDS 

structed; I am sure we ought to be so considered after Wade 
Hampton's last. Is it not glorious to have such unanimity of 
feeling throughout the country ? " 

To signalize and celebrate this Thanksgiving, we 
invited twelve of our oldest and most decrepit con- 
trabands to a state dinner. It was a great occasion. 
One old man, who had never sat down at a table, pre- 
ferred to take his plate in his hand and sit on the 
piazza to eat. The rest took their seats with great 
composure. We knew they had never sat at a table 
before, and were interested to see what they would 
do ; but they were- embarrassed by our presence, so 
we left them to the care of Aunt Jane and Uncle 
Ned, who were ostensibly our cook and butler, and who 
waited upon them with the polite attention worthy a 
more conspicuous occasion. No pen-and-ink sketch 
can represent this unique group. It would require 
an artist's brush and a graphic pen to describe their 
manners and dress and conversation. All were pure 
black. The women wore bright, well-arranged ker- 
chiefs, and the men had on conspicuous neckties. 
They were neat and orderly as possible under the 
circumstances. 

" Shall I give you a cup of coffee, sir? " says Aunt 
Jane ; or, '' Do you wish me to cut you a piece of 
meat, ma'am ? " says Uncle Ned. '' If you please, 
ma'am ; " or, " Do so brudder," were the replies. 
These people were intimately associated daily, but 
they were now " on their dignity.'* 



SHORT STORIES 249 

Short Stories. 

A man hurried to the school, saying, he wanted 
''to catch one or two lessons, for he was "jes' crazy 
for larn." 

A ''settled" (married) Avoman thought if she 
could only learn her letters it would be something. 
We gave her a book with the alphabet to take home 
with her. The next day she returned, and, pointing 
to the letter B, said she had " been chasing him all 
night, but couldn't catch him." 

Old Aunt Hetty was a great-grandmother. She 
and Uncle Major had just built themselves a small 
house, cutting the trees, and splitting out the planks 
themselves, which they "toted" on their shoulders to 
their lot. They were very happy when they moved 
into this house, after living all their lives in the 
negro quarters — " nigger houses " they called them. 

One day Hetty came to me full of trouble. After 
narrating her grievances, she looked up most cheer- 
fully, and exclaimed, " But, bless the Lord ! w'en I 
puts my foot first out o' bed in the morning, and thinks 
this is my own floor, an' I is free, I can't thankful 
'nuff." 

I went to the quarters on an errand one night, and 
saw a child we called " the little woman," sitting 
on the hearth reading her book by firelight, while 
her feet were buried in the warm ashes. The mother 
said, " Oh, I is so glad to hear my child read at night! 
It makes me proud. She knows so much, an' I ain't 
know nothiDg." 



250 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

I punished a boy by placing him in a corner with 
his face to the wall. When his mother heard of it 
she was highly offended, because I " hurt the feelings 
of her boy." She sent me a saucy letter, in which 
she said I " could lick him, for licks is a very good 
thing for a chile, but she didn't want his feelings 
hurted." 

I showed the letter to some of the older people. 
They were greatly incensed at her. Her sister 
stopped me as I rode by, " to make me sensible " she 
did not approve of Rose's conduct. Said she, " Rose 
an' me had one mother, but two fathers, an' her 
always was a crack-brained nigger, anyhow." 

Rose's mother also came to express her displeasure, 
saying, she "would not have my feelings hurted for 
something handsome. Her is a flat-nosed, thick- 
lipped, know-nothing nigger, an' alluz was." 

Old Uncle Ned wished to go North with us to 
work, and to take a young friend Avith him. I told 
him it might not be easy to arrange matters for him 
in a Northern home. 

''In course," he said, "I doesn't wish to discommo- 
date Masser John. But, Lord bless you, ma'am ! he 
needn't trouble hisself 'bout dat, fur Fred an' me, 
us could sleep in de barn, up-stairs, an' us could eat 
whar de people is, an' no trouble to nobody." 

On Good Friday a little girl came, bringing a very 
small chicken to give us, assuring us it was ''not fur 
sell." I very well knew help was needed in every 
house. The chicken was a polite offering as a 
reminder. I asked the child if she had had breakfast, 
or anything to eat. 



SHORT STOKIES 251 

" No, ma'am ; us waiting now for the tide to go 
out so us can go into the creek to catch crabs," she 
said. 

There were so many destitute people around us it 
nearly drove us wild. Ned, our house-servant, made 
up his mind the people must starve. 

I heard Hector, our little waiter, singing in a loud 

voice, — 

" O Lord! w'en I die, 
I want to git to heben, 
My Lord, w'en I die." 

Looking out of the window, I saw him shouting 
on the back piazza, hopping first on one foot and 
then on the other, and clapping his hands, keep- 
ing time to the music. " Little rascal ! " said Miss 
Fannie, looking over my shoulder. " He has 
enough to eat, and is never hungry. Why can't he 
be content with heaven here, and not sigh for a better 
place?" 

We tried in vain to get help for them from the 
Freedmen's Bureau. "' Tell them to go to work," 
said the superintendent in reply to our petition. This 
seemed hard when they were working day and night 
too. 

I told Jackson Green what a planter on St. Helena 
Island said of the freed people. 

" The gentleman shouldn't come here to bring us 
to the ground in down-heartedness ; he should re- 
member what us has gone through with, fur he know 
how it was 'fore the war," he said. 

The negroes on St. Helena Island took possession 



252 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

of all the horses, mules, and cattle, and hid them 
away in the swamps, so the foraging-parties could 
not find them. But the people on Port Royal Island 
were so near the river, the men on the gunboats took 
all the live-stock, and the negroes were drafted as 
soldiers. 

One morning Katrine, a fine-looking negress, came 
to beg for a bit of black to wear as mourning for her 
mother. Aunt Peg. '' But she die so pretty, ma'am," 
said the mourning daughter. " She see all her family 
as has died afore 'round her, an' the angels, you know, 
ma'am, kum for she. Her said him arms was wings, 
an' him gown a 'scension robe. Her said there was a 
great gang o' little childun 'round she, an' them pull 
her so her tell 'em loud, ' Go 'long, I'll come.' Oh, 
her die so pretty ! " 

I asked a class of little boys, " What are your ears 
for?" 

'' Oh, they jes' stan' ^o," said one. "• They is made 
fur put on the head." 

'' Then what is your hair for ? " 

" Oh, hair is for keep sun out, so folks won't get 
fever." 

Aunt Jane called the little waiter. " Hector, you 
come set the hen fur me ; dat's good boy," coax- 
ingly. Then excusing herself to me, " Fur don't you 
know, ma'am, 'tain't every somebody kin set a hen 
an' have her come off all right. Some particular 
somebodies has a good hand." 

So Hector took the eggs and began to lay them 
down carefully, but the old woman flew at him like 
a veritable hen, exclaiming, — 



CHRISTMAS GIFTS 263 

" You mustn't touch 'em, boy. Slip 'em in. Don't 
you know if you lay 'em down one at a time dey'U 
hatch out de same ? " 

After this we watched biddy in her nest in a bas- 
ket under the stairs with interest. 

Christmas Gifts. 

The Christmas festivals were great occasions for 
old and young. As yet there seemed to be no dis- 
tinctive childhood. Old people were like children, 
and the children worked with their elders. Little 
boys and girls went into the fields and dropped corn 
and thinned cotton. 

We gave some beautiful dolls to the little girls, but 
at first they did not know what to do with them. 
Their mothers immediately took them and put them 
up as house decorations, after examining them criti- 
cally. All the old people were as delighted with toys 
and games as the veriest child. Old men would dis- 
pute the tilts and swings with the small boys, and 
found ball-playing a most exciting game. 

We had our schoolhouse newly painted and white- 
washed. It was interesting to see the delight of the 
children over this. The little ones would lie down 
with their faces against the painted floor of the piazza, 
and stretch out their arms as if caressing it. Of 
course the clean and fresh schoolroom was a haven of 
rest, so unlike their dark and dingy homes. It was 
not surprising that when they came from their field- 
work, to which they went at break of day, they were 
glad to lay their heads on their desks and go to sleep. 



254 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTKABANDS 

We daily found two or three in this condition, and 
rarely had the heart to disturb them. They needed 
rest, and we were sure they would learn all the better 
when they awoke. These sleepy ones always declared 
their drowsiness came from the house and benches. 
Like my house-boy, Nat, who frequently went to sleep 
in a big rocking-chair after he had built my fire. He 
would look around indignantly when aroused, and 
exclaim, — 

'* Dat chair ! Dat chair is too wicked ! " 

At one of the festivals I gave a woman a tin cup 
of hot coffee. She held out her hand for another. I 
expressed surprise, when she said, — 

" O ma'am, I wants dat fur my ole man, who is 
sick at home an' can't come." 

In the winter most of the children were '' seeking 
and praying." The older people said, " They do hang 
their heads and pray ; " and they were not allowed to 
do much of anything else for fear they would '' be 
turned back." 

One woman said of her adopted daughter, " She 
has been hanging her head and trying to pray these 
three months, and she hasn't got through yit, and 
she don't want to do nothing in all this time." 

These religious revivals were a source of much dis- 
turbance in school routine. Some of the seekers were 
little children. We cannot call these " religious ex- 
citements;" the young seekers were in a stupid and 
lethargic condition. They began by wearing the most 
ragged and untidy clothing, and they often tied dirty 
bands around their heads, literally putting on sack- 



CHRISTMAS GIFTS 255 

cloth and ashes. Some children were not allowed to 
come to school for fear they would be turned back. 
A little girl was told she was too young to seek. She 
drew herself up and said, " If Maria," one of her 
mates, '' could go into the water, she could go too." 

Two colored men set out some trees, live-oaks and 
water-oaks, for me. " They is sure to live, for I shall 
spection them every week," said one. But, in spite 
of his '' 'spection," the trees did not live, which they 
were sure was due to the " oncommon dry time." 

At one time I proposed to give the school-children 
a vacation during the holidays ; but to my surprise 
this was not received with favor, so I asked what 
was vacation. One boy exclaimed jubilantly, '' Some- 
thing for eat ; " but others said, " To do nothing." 

" Then you had rather do something ? " said I. 

" Yes^ ma^am!''^ they exclaimed with emphasis. 

I knew very well this was not altogether their love 
for school. Their homes were dull and uncomfort- 
able, and they were lonesome there. 

I pursued my investigations farther, and asked, 
''Why do we celebrate Christmas ? " 

To my surprise, neither the women in the sewing- 
room, nor the children, could give an answer. The 
word '' celebrate " had upset them, and thrown all 
their ideas into confusion. Then I told them about 
Christmas, using as simple language as possible, when 
one of the larger boys exclaimed, " Us ain't know 
that''s what you mean! " 



256 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Festival. 

Through the kindness of our friend Rev. James 
Freeman Clarke and his church, we were enabled to 
give an annual festival to all the colored people in 
our vicinity. There were over three hundred of 
them. The maimed, the lame, and the blind, all 
came together " for a good time.'' Never did host- 
esses have merrier guests. The young people had 
lost much of their diffidence, and moved about with 
great freedom. 

'-'• A festival is fur eat, an' it makes me laugh to 
t'ink of it," said old Aunt Kate. 

The men ''based" their shouting songs, in which 
all joined with tremendous force : — 

'' I can't stay behind, my Lord ; 
I can't stay behind." 

'' Nobody knows the trouble I feel, 
Nobody knows but Jesus." 

" O believer, go ring that bell, 
Ring that charming bell." 

''Keep your lamps trimmed and burning, 
When the bridegroom comes." 

At one of these festivals we were gratified to hear 
a Northern gentleman say to our guests that he found 
great improvement in the condition of the people 
since he saw them before. He congratulated them 
upon the upward progress they were making. 

Mrs. Frances D. Gage, the poet, was also with us, 
and gave some of her experiences when she came 
South in 1862 as superintendent and teacher. 



FESTIVAL 267 

Now she found great changes for the better, and she 
praised the mothers for their care of their children, 
which pleased the women immensely. 

One of the men in his speech declared, ''The 
teachers is too kind-hearted." He wanted his chil- 
dren " licked in school." When they were " licked " 
he was sure they learned well. 

This reminded me of the woman on St. Helena, 
w^ho said, " Boy chile made fur lick. What did the 
Lord Almighty make trees fur if they ain't fur lick 
boy chillen?" 

Another man said, " I send my children to school 
every day, and when they come I ask them what they 
do, and they incites their lessons to me ; and I ain't 
no fault to find." 

This same man said on another occasion, " When we 
want anything done I go to Miss Mattoon's house, and 
she insults me and I insult [consult] her; and then it 
is all right." 

About this time two little white girls presented 
themselves, and asked to be taken into school. They 
belonged to a good old Southern family, but were out 
of the reach of any other school. The children of 
their mother's cook had told them what we were 
doing, and they were eager to be enrolled. They 
came regularly, and were very happy, and made good 
progress. The youngest was in the same class with 
her little black playfellow, both learning to read ; but 
the black girl started first, and so was ahead. 

It was touching to see her zeal in trying to help on 
her white companion, and her manifest delight when 
her friend said anything particularly good. 



258 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

But at the end of two months the little maidens 
told me with evident reluctance and regret, that they 
could not come any longer, " they were needed at 
home." 

I suspected there were other reasons, so I called 
upon the mother, a most intelligent and refined 
woman. She confessed the Southern white people 
had ''made so much fuss" because she allowed the 
children to go to a '-'nigger school^^^ she felt obliged to 
take them away. She regretted this, for the children 
played all the time with their colored companions. 
They had been brought up with them, but must grow 
up in ignorance rather than to be allowed to study 
with them. 

" I would not care myself, but the young men laugh 
at my husband. They tell him he must be pretty far 
gone and low down when he sends his children to a 
'nigger school.^ That makes him mad, and he is 
vexed with me," said the mother sadly. 

We all greatly regretted that these bright young 
girls should be removed, and so lose the opportunity 
for study ; but I could well understand the odium 
was too great to be resisted. 



SPECULATORS 260 



XXII 

SPECULATORS 

A SWARM of speculators hung about the freed peo- 
ple, to get away their lands. They used various 
means, chief of which was bad whiskey, treating the 
poor men to get them to give up their deeds, and 
treating them to clinch the bargain. No lands could 
fce bought at this time excepting by colored people 
viho were heads of families, so the speculators con- 
trived many ways to keep possession. They held the 
deeds " in trust," and " for safe keeping," and " as 
guaranty for the payment of some debt," etc. 

The poor negroes became more than ever eager to 
'' get book-larning," realizing that designing people 
took advantage of their ignorance. They constantly 
said to me, — 

" My Lord, ma'am, what a great thing larning is ! 
In course white folks can do what they likes, for they 
know so much more'na we." 

At the same time these " white folks " were using 
and abusing the negroes. If business went well, and 
money flowed in freely, all was right ; but when 
reverses came, whatever was the primary cause, it 
was always attributed to the 'inevitable nigger." 



260 FIEST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

We were often astonished at the angry diatribes of 
our white neighbors. From observation we were 
forced to believe that '' white folks," with all their 
" larning," could sometimes make mistakes and 
mismanage. 

Year after year it was the old story with the freed 
people, — short crops and no money. An old man 
came to me for advice. He said, — 

" Sometimes when I sets down and studies upon 
what I can find to put in my mouth, the water leaps 
from my eyes and runs down my face from pure dis- 
trust [distress], for I ain't know what to do next. 
For I is a well-raised man, and I ain't used to com- 
plainments." 

In 1868 I wrote to the agent of the Freedmen's 
Bureau in Beaufort, as I knew he had corn and meat 
to distribute. I told him I would pledge my word 
for the industry of our people ; besides, there were 
many who were old, sick, and helpless. 

He replied, " It is direct cruelty to the race for 
government to assist the people with rations. I have 
no doubt you will see it in this same light upon re- 
flection. Tell the people from me they must work 
for some one who has corn to pay for labor." 

This was a cruel blow. We knew the man had a 
cargo of corn for distribution. We had been with 
the freed people four years, and thought we under- 
stood them quite as well as this new official. 

One of our men had a broken leg. I asked the 
agent if this man and the old women could " go to 
work " ? and would he advise those who had planted 
crops to abandon them and seek work elsewhere ? 



SPECULATORS 261 

The people around me were working on two plan- 
tations for a share in the crops, but they had not a 
cent with which to buy food. In this dilemma I 
went again to the bureau agent. He said each man 
must pay the sum of two dollars and ten cents for a 
bond before he could get a grain of corn. 

'^ Lord bless me ! Whar da him comin' from ? " 
exclaimed old Uncle Major, who had gone with me 
to get rations. I reiterated this. Where can these 
people get money for a bond when they have abso- 
lutely nothing ? And why were the colored people 
obliged to pay two dollars a bushel for corn, and 
twenty cents a pound for bacon, when government 
furnished to the white planters corn for one dollar 
and forty cents a bushel, and bacon for fifteen cents 
a pound? The reply was the white planters were 
sure to pay, as they gave a lien upon their crops. 

In the meantime the colored people around us were 
trying to work their crops, having only the fish and 
crabs they caught in the creeks to live on. 

Later in the season the bureau agent decided to 
advance provisions to those people who owned land, 
if they pledged themselves to pay for this in the fall. 
This arrangement did not help the most needy. 

Owing to their ignorance of the value of cotton, of 
money, and of the things purchased with money, the 
freed people were constantly imposed upon by those 
who bought of or sold to them. 

One of the officers said to me, " All the good the 
Yankee teachers do to the freedmen is neutralized by 
the harm done to them by the Yankee sharpers." 



262 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

March 15, 1867, the War Department Bureau of 
Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, Wash- 
ington, estimated that the number of destitute in 
South Carolina were, " Whites, 5,000, and blacks 
5,000. Number of rations needed per month, 300,000 ; 
for five months, until the crops would begin to be 
gathered, 1,600,000. Value at twenty-five cents per 
ration 1375,000." 

With all this outlay we could not believe the blacks 
would be left to starve. 

In November we went to Beaufort to see the black 
people in their first great '' election day ; " as was said 
at the time, '' one of the greatest days ever known." 
The flag for Grant and Colfax extended across the 
street was a wonder and a delight to all the freed 
people. The town was crowded ; but, contrary to the 
predictions of many of the white people and hopes of 
a few, the election passed off admirably, with much 
less friction than could have been expected. There 
was not a drop of liquor sold, and no hanging about. 
The negroes voted and went off'. This was due to 
their own good management. 

One of our men came to the carriage to speak with 
us: — 

'' Do you vote the Lincoln ticket ? " said a gentle- 
man who was with us. 

" Oh, I'se 'bleeged to wote fur him, fur him's been 
our fader." 

" But Lincoln is dead," said another. 

" Dead ! " he exclaimed. '' Oh, no, him neber die. 
They tried to kill him ; they 'sassernated him, but 



SPECULATORS 263 

him lib forever. Wen him dead for sure, then us all 
dead sure. 'Tain't no use fur we to try more." 

Our man-servant Ned was much troubled as to 
what to do about his vote. As he expressed it, he 
was " toxicated in his mind." I heard him telling 
Aunt Jane with great delight about this. A gentle- 
man asked him where he came from. -He said he 
drove for the ladies. That was enough ; he was taken 
care of. 

Poor Ned! He did not know that with all his 
ignorance and credulity his name was of far more 
value than ours, because he was a man, and we 
only women. He could cast a vote which he could 
not read, and help to make laws of whose import he 
knew nothing. 

This election was of great importance to the 
negroes, and was an event in their lives which they 
were only beginning to comprehend. 

All the colored people, whether church-members 
or not, had a blind devotion to religious restrictions. 
They claimed to be strict observers of the Sabbath. 

This same Uncle Ned went on Saturday night to 
another plantation to see his family ; so I directed 
him to bring the mule and cart with him the next 
day ; but the old man, who always looked out for the 
main chance, concluded it was foolish to bring an 
empty cart, so he filled it with wood for our use. 
Reporting this to me, he said, — 

" Many o' them peoples wonders at me for bringing 
wood on Sunday; but I tells them one man's need 
ain't another man's need, an' each one knows hisself, 



264 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

SO I ax the Lord's pardon ef I does wrong, an' I 
hopes he'll furgive me ; an' then I jes' let Bessie 
[the mule] tuck his foot easy for home, an' I hopes 
it'll not be amiss, an will be all right by an' by." 
So his conscience was set at rest. 

The same day I had been to a meeting of colored 
people. The minister was exhorting the converts 
who were soon to be baptized. He said, — 

" Some Baptists are so mixed up I don't know 
what to call them. They are dodging about under 
the umbrellas and parasols of other denominations^ 
until I don't know where to find them." 

At the close of the war, to our surprise and dis- 
may, the old plantation house and grand oak grove 
were sold, and we were forced to seek a home 
in the town. This involved a daily drive of five 
miles to and from school, over a deep, sandy road, 
which made it a slow and tedious trip. This also 
removed us from the immediate neighborhood of the 
people we most desired to help. Now the men and 
women, knowing they could no longer come to the 
house for advice, watched for us by the roadside. 
Many were the petty courts we thus held, sitting in 
our open buggy ; some were amusing, but all were 
more or less pathetic. 

When family or neighborhood disturbances arose, 
we would find accuser and accused, with the wit- 
nesses, ranged in military order, waiting our coming. 
A few decisive words usually sent them all off laugh- 
ing and talking harmoniously. 

One day we met on the way an old man and woman 



SPECULATORS 265 

with two young witnesses marching to town. The 
old man immediately began to tell his story, — some 
trouble about his pigs, etc. Whatever it was, he 
decided he couldn't stand it any longer, and he was 
bound to go to the trial justice. Thereupon the 
woman pushed him aside, exclaiming, — 

'' Pshaw, boy ! Go 'long, an' let me talk." Then 
she gave her version. 

Both these people were gray-headed. I said, — 

" Jack, how old are you ? " 

" Why, missis, I don't know how old I is, but I 
'specs I must be a big age. I ain't a chicken, that's 
sure," he replied. 

'^ Well, Rose, what is Jack to you ? " I asked. 

" Nothing, only fellow-sarvents," she answered, 
nodding her head. " I don't count him, nohow." 

I told them I was ashamed to see two old people 
quarrelling like children. At this the old man hung 
his head. 

" When you get to the trial justice, please don't 
say you came from Whitney School District," I said, 
and started on. 

''Rose," said the man, ''let's go home. I ain't 
min' what you say." 

" That's so, Brudder Jack. I ain't want to fight 
you," she replied, and all turned back laughing and 
talking like merry children. 

Not far from us lived a man and his wife, who 
were most helpful neighbors. They owned their own 
house and land, and were wise and thrifty, and were 
leaders in the town and the church. He was business 



266 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

adviser to his colored friends, and a devoted friend 
to us. Honest and faithful, he certainly lived up to 
the best light given him. He was such an efficient 
helper in our goings and comings, and transacted so 
much business for me, that " Miss Sallie " named him 
" Prime Minister." As such he was a man to be 
proud of; very black, tall, and straight — a fine 
specimen of his race. 

He always bought my wood and feed for my horse, 
etc. So he often came to the house for instructions, 
beginning with, — 

" What do you think, ma'am ? " And when I had 
given him explicit directions what to do, he invariably 
answered, — 

'' That's so, ma'am. Now, I is going to show you," 
putting his fore-finger emphatically into the other 
hand, to point off his suggestions, '' for you is a 
women and can't look into everi/ pint." Then he 
would repeat word for word what I had told him, 
giving it as his plan of action, and ending with, — 

'' You see, ma'am, women is women, and mens is 
mens," and that settled the whole. 



EECONSTKUCTION 267 



XXIII 

KECONSTEUCTION 

As we were returning South in the fall of 1868, 
we heard disheartening stories about the freedmen. 
We were told in Washington they were becoming 
usurpers. They realized their power, and began to 
feel they could do without white influence. It was 
said they had taken the entire direction of their 
schools, putting into office colored trustees and a col- 
ored superintendent, and they had removed several 
white teachers and put inefficient colored teachers in 
their places. 

Miss Amy Bradley, who was giving her life to help 
the ''poor whites " in Wilmington, N.C., spoke to us 
of the arrogant assumption of the negroes around 
her as a serious evil. 

In Charleston we heard of riots in different parts 
of the State, excited certainly by what Governor 
Andrew had already predicted, the unwillingness of 
the old slave-holders to recognize free labor. We 
feared there was a growing hostility between the two 
races, as races. 

We took a small steamer from Charleston for Beau- 
fort. Here we found a decided change since we went 
North. Then no colored person was allowed on the 



268 FIEST DAYS WITH THE CONTKABANDS 

upper deck, now there were no restrictions, — there 
could be none, for a law had been passed in favor of 
the negroes. They were everywhere, choosing the 
best staterooms and best seats at the table. Two 
prominent colored members of the State Legislature 
were on board with their families. There were also 
several well-known Southerners, still uncompromis- 
ing rebels. It was a curious scene and full of signifi- 
cance. An interesting study to watch the exultant 
faces of the negroes, and the scowling faces of the 
rebels, — rebels still against manifest destiny and the 
new dispensation. Until now we had but little un- 
derstood these portentous changes, the meaning of 
which we must study out for ourselves. 

We were summoned to dinner. When we reached 
the table we found there only colored people occupy- 
ing more than half the seats on each side. They 
were doing the honors with something of an air that 
said, ''Keceive this from me or go without." In all 
' respects, however, they were courteous and attentive. 
There was no loud talking or laughing. 

The stewardess came behind us, and leaning over 
whispered we had better wait a little, as they were 
obliged to give the colored passengers the first table. 
The white passengers would come to the second. 
We thanked her, but preferred to keep our seats. A 
few Northerners joined us. One, who we knew had 
been a first-class Democrat, and " down on the niggers," 
was obliged to leave us and sit next to a man as black 
as ink. He swallowed his prejudices and took his 
seat, and fraternized with his neighbor to the best of 



RECONSTRUCTIOK 269 

his ability; besides, it was no longer a question of 
inclination, it was business. This was the point in 
which our fears were most aroused. The freedmen, 
no longer slaves, were fast becoming tools. 

The negro who sat not far from me was an immense 
fellow, seemingly an iron man, with powerful physique 
and indomitable will. He had made an incendiary 
speech in July, telling his people this was their gov- 
ernment, and they no longer needed or had any use 
for white people. All the morning he had walked 
around scanning and apparently marking the passen- 
gers. His looks seemed to say, " If you are with us, 
well and good ; if not, stand back." Whilst the 
scowling faces and muttered words of the Southern- 
ers implied, " If you stand back, well and good ; if 
you fraternize with the niggers, be ^ — " 

The little group of Northerners noted and trans- 
lated what they saw. Each one watched his neigh- 
bor. I now understood why we were so frequently 
asked in Charleston if we were not afraid to return to 
Beaufort just now. Some friends had earnestly urged 
us to wait until after election on Tuesday, but that 
was the time we wanted to be with the people in our 
own district. We had no fears for ourselves, but grave 
apprehensions for our friends. These were exciting 
times. We seemed to be living over a volcano. 

On arriving in Beaufort we found no excitement 
amongst the freed people, and no apparent antagon- 
ism. All was quiet in our own district. Rumors of 
disaffection had reached our colored neighbors. They 
came to us to know what it all meant. 



270 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

I can only refer briefly to those early days of 
reconstruction. 

Governor Orr had declared in convention, ''The 
doctrine of State rights, as taught in South Carolina, 
has been exploded by the war." This had been " a 
time-honored doctrine in the South." 

A series of resolutions had been drawn up in the 
State convention, one of which was the following : — 

'* And whereas our newly enfranchised citizens have displayed 
their good sense and strong love of country by a cordial and unas- 
suming co-operation with the rest of their fellow-citizens, in pro- 
moting the true interests of our beloved State and glorious republic, 
be it — 

^^ Resolvedj That this convention take such action as it may in 
its wisdom deem compatible with its powers, and conducive to the 
public weal to expunge forever from the vocabulary of South 
Carolina the epithets of ^' negro," "nigger," and "Yankee," as 
used in an opprobrious sense." 

The constitutional convention also declared, — 

" All the public schools, colleges, and universities of this State, 
supported by the public funds, shall be free and open to all the 
children and youth of the State, without regard to race or color." 

A bill " to protect all persons in the State in their 
civil rights," " was introduced in the House of Rep- 
resentatives, which declared the civil equality of 
all citizens, and prohibited any discrimination on 
account of race or color on the part of hotel-keepers, 
carriers of passengers, granters of licenses," etc. 

To this bill were the colored people — as it had 
been decided by the Democrats to call them " colored 
population " for '^ negroes," — indebted for their seats 



1869 271 

at the first table in tlie steamboat, instead of the 
second. 

The Democrats sent to Washington their remon- 
strance against the new constitution of the State. 

Later they declared, " This must be and shall be, 
par excellence^ a white man's government." 

This is not a political paper. I give these extracts 
to show the animus of the times. Knowing how 
much was at stake, we watched with intense interest 
the approaching election, in which the freed people 
were for the first time to vote for president, and take 
their places as acknowledged citizens of the United 
States. 

But election day came and went without conflict 
or confusion. Fortunately for all concerned, the bar- 
rooms were closed, and no riotous or disorderly people 
were allowed on the streets. 

In those first days of reconstruction the white 
people in our vicinity were much given to fault- 
finding. With them, the greatest of all sinners was 
the ''inevitable nigger." Ignorance and stupidity 
were inexcusable, if covered with a black skin. These 
complaints became so general as to make us believe 
each man had an axe to grind, which must be done 
by the negroes ; and that he v/as mad if the stone 
was not turned his own particular way. 

1869. 

It was now only seven years since the slaves had 
first heard of emancipation. Like the first years in 
the life of mankind, these had been the infancy of the 



272 FIKST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

race. The second period, which might truly be termed 
its boyhood, had now begun. Like its prototype in 
man, it was a season of change and all sorts of wild 
vagaries. Transition periods are times of great per- 
plexities ; time and patience and wise forethought 
are needed to bring order out of confusion. 

Individuals amongst the freedmen were rapidly 
progressing ; but the majority were uncertain what to 
do. They were now, for the first time, taking their 
places as independent human beings ; literally 
'' working out their own salvation," but not with 
fear and trembling. Like children they were buoyant 
and confident. They asked less and less advice and 
help from their white neighbors. Of course they 
made great mistakes and fatal blunders. Their mis- 
fortunes were their best teachers. We all know it is 
by our failures, and not our successes, we get the best 
lessons of life. 

The leaders amongst the colored people had already 
established churches in all the towns, with branch 
societies in the country. These were in good work- 
ing order. The smaller societies were regularly 
supervised by the parent churches. At the beginning 
their methods were crude in the extreme ; but there 
was constantly a little change for the better. This 
was certainly the verdict in our district, after much 
observation. 

The next step with the colored man was to join a 
political club, and these duties became more absorbing 
than all else. Every boy considered himself a man 
at eighteen, and every man had some office in his 



1869 273 

neighborhood which was to him of vast importance, 
even if only that of doorkeeper in their small 
meetings. 

Most of the field-work was done by the women and 
girls ; their lords and masters were much interrupted 
in agricultural pursuits by their political and religious 
duties. When the days of " conwentions " came, the 
men were rarely at home ; but the women kept 
steadily at work in the fields. As we drove around, 
we saw them patiently '' cleaning up their ground," 
''listing," "chopping down the old cotton stalks 
and hoeing them under," gathering "sedge" and 
"trash" from the river-side, which they carried in 
baskets on their heads, and spread over the land. 
And later, hoeing the crops and gathering theni in. 

We could not help wishing that since so much of 
the work was done by the colored women, — raising 
the provisions for their families, besides making and 
selling their own cotton, they might also hold some 
of the offices held by the men. I am confident they 
would despatch business if allowed to go to the polls; 
instead of listening and hanging around all day, dis- 
cussing matters of which they knew so little, they 
would exclaim, — 

" Let me vote and go ; I've got work to do." 

Many of these same working-women were in school 
at odd times, eager to learn, but they thought they 
could go through a book as they hoed a task. 
" Please read me quick, and let me go ! " was usually 
their first exclamation. It took time to make them 
understand that learning was not given by weight or 



274 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

measure. As soon as they saw that school, too, 
required steady work, many of them dropped out. 

These men and women no longer left everything 
to come '' to catch a lesson," as in the first days of 
freedom. Many things conspired to check their zeal, 
the chief of which was the little importance placed 
upon education throughout the country. The men 
were eager to hold office, and positions of trust were 
frequently given to those who could neither read nor 
write, while those who were studying were set aside. 
In time they decided that for all practical purposes 
the ignorant got along as well as ''those that have 
book-learning." They could not understand that 
education helped them to ways and means of which 
they knew nothing. They had yet to learn the power 
of knowledge, and that it is not so much what we do, 
as how we do it. 

They were still eager to keep their children in 
school, saying, " We are too old to run that race ; the 
children must learn for us." But the boys and girls 
who stood first in their classes were unwilling to go 
back to field-work. This was a serious offence to the 
old people. 

" Do they think I am to hoe with them folks that 
don't know anything ! " exclaimed one of the older 
boys. " I know too much for that." Their dialect is 
the last thing to change. 

" Them children discountenance we," groaned the 
parents. " They is too smart ; they knows too 
much," but all with evident pride in spite of their 
dissatisfaction. 



1869 275 

We were told these parents carried famous reports 
to town of what our scholars could do. According 
to these partial judges there was no knowledge on 
the face of the earth that could not be gained in 
Whitney School. 

The town children came out to "spection" our 
district, and find out what our pupils were doing. 
These visitors talked loudly of their own work, to 
which the country children ''turned up their noses," 
until they began to boast of '' algeeher " and '' passin^'^ 
then our children were silenced ; they had not reached 
algebra, and knew but little of parsing. 

One of the head men came to ask me what these 
meant, and couldn't I introduce them into my school. 

"Not that I think them can come up to you, 
ma'am, but they is so boastful," said my self-appointed 
supervisor. 

The children declared scornfully, " They can't beat 
us, for they don't know more than we." 

The boys soon learned to play ball, and were 
greatly absorbed in this amusement. It Avas hard for 
them not to have one little game when school was 
over. They were obliged to go to the field at break 
of day, where each one had his task to do before he 
could ''knock off." It seemed to us it was pretty 
much " all work and no play," which would make a 
" dull boy " of any Jack. But the parents complained, 
" Them children so love fur play, " they never wanted 
to come home. All we could do was to see that they 
did not stop on the school grounds ; the parents 
must see to the rest. But they are unwilling to 



276 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTBABANDS 

assume real responsibility. Home discipline and 
home instruction are the most difficult things for the 
colored people to grapple with. 

This is the gist of the ignorance of all the lowest 
classes. When they can learn to wisely govern 
themselves and their families, they cease to be sub- 
ordinate, and rise to the level of leaders and di- 
rectors. 

The chief amusement of the girls was to sing 
and to sew on their patchwork. Sewing was the 
most fascinating of all, in which the mothers deeply 
sympathized. The only thing all the women would 
beg for was '' scraps for quilts." The boys begged 
'' to sew quilt too," and there was much good-nat- 
ured rivalry between them and the girls. 

One day a class of small girls was given an extra 
hour to sew after school. This was considered a 
special '' reward of merit." They had more freedom 
than during the regular school hours. I heard them 
chattering like blackbirds. Finally one exclaimed, — 

" I weary fur sew ; I hungry too. Ef Miss Noy 
only gib me sew at home, I make one big quilt 'fore 
this month done." 

"I am afraid you won't keep your work clean," 
said the teacher, who also heard their talk; ''one 
piece is very much soiled already." 

They looked at each other astonished, as if clean- 
liness was the rule and not the exception ; then one 
said, — 

" Who da him ? That one somebody never wash 
hands. I done wash my hands 'fore school." 



DISCOURAGED 277 

Ah, me ! It was impossible to correct the language 
of these childi^en, when out of school they heard 
nothing but the plantation dialect. 

Discouraged, 

In the fall of 1869 we found grave causes for 
anxiety cropping out in our district. The old people 
were fast breaking down ; the younger people had 
not the patience and endurance of their parents. 
Trials and ve!s:ations were to them dire misfortunes. 
The children ran more at large, and acquired bad 
habits. In former times the elders had unquestioned 
authority over the young people, from whom they 
exacted implicit obedience. 

Speculators had succeeded in getting hold of much 
of the land near us. From the friends of the freed 
people in town, who tried to shield them against 
sharpers and carpet-baggers, the women had learned 
that they too had independent rights in their ten-acre 
lots, most of which had been bought with their own 
money. Some of these women were firm in refusing 
to sign the papers which transferred their lands. 
The men, directed by their white leaders, used all 
sorts of ways to bring their wives into subjection. 

One woman, who would not consent to the sale of 
her land, became ill. Her husband kindly offered to 
take her to a good white doctor in town ; so she 
willingly went with him. When they reached the 
town he took her into an office where were several 
white men. One of these questioned her. and then 
said he now understood what was the matter, and he 



278 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

would give her an order for some medicine, but she 
must first sign the receipt. This she did by touching 
the pen in the presence of witnesses. 

These poor creatures had profound respect for 
'^ handwriting," and the ^ touching the pen was to 
them a kind of necromancy. This woman hesitated, 
but was assured by all present that it was all 
right. 

For a long time she was ignorant of the fact that 
her land was sold, and that she had signed away her 
title when she signed the so-called receipt. When 
she found out the deception, she declared she would 
never give up her claim, year after year still asserting 
she would never give it up, '' Not while I lives." But 
she died, and her children were powerless, and the 
place went into a white man's hands. 

There were innumerable cases of this kind around 
us. The opening of a new railroad and a new town 
had greatly increased the value of the land. 

January, 1869, we received word that all the col- 
ored people who owned land must pay a back tax 
for 1866 ; they had already paid for 1867. The 
original tax was $1.10 ; but on account of delays 
and " charges," all of which were unintelligible to 
the negroes, the sum now amounted to $4.85. They 
were notified that if they delayed paying this tax 
their lands would be sold. They were in a panic, 
and so were we. They gathered together everything 
which could possibly be sold — corn, chickens, and 
pigs ; indeed, they stripped their little farms. In this 
excitement we drove to and from town to see the 



DISCOUP.AGED 279 

officials, and wrote in every direction for advice. 
Finally, we were notified the tax collection was 
stopped; but the mischief was done. Most of the 
people had beggared themselves to raise what was 
to them a small fortune ; but they settled back into 
contentment and quiet. 

Then came a new order that the law must be 
enforced, and the back taxes paid. It was a cruel 
thing that these poor people should be obliged to pay 
so dearly for theii^ ignorance. They had never been 
notified of this tax for 1866. Some of the lands were 
sold before the matter could be readjusted. 

It was touching to see the humility and contrition 
of the neofroes when thino-s went wronof. Instead of 
expressing anger when over-reached, they seemed 
grieved and ready to apologize for their stupidity. 
Over and over again they would say. — 

'• Mv Lord, ma'am I what a oTcat thingr larnincr is ! 
In course white folks can do what they likes, for they 
knows so much more'na ^ e.'* 

As March said of the Xorthern man who cheated 
him, — 

•* I declar.' he don't desarv to be a white man." 

In time the negroes began to profit by their fail- 
ures. In slavery times success had been held up as a 
crowning virtue. I once heard a slave-holder say. — 

'' I never whip a nigger for stealing, but I'll lick 
him half to death for being found out. They iciU 
steal; all the nigs will: but if they ain't smart 
enough to hide it, they deserve to be thrashed, and I 
tell my niggers so." 



280 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Such were the schools from which most of these 
people were graduated. When they became free we 
cannot wonder if they wished to be as sharp as their 
neighbors. 



PKOGRESS 281 



XXIV 

PEOGRESS 

While recalling the incidents and events con- 
tiected with " my first days with the contrabands," I 
am overwhelmed with the crowd of memories which 
rash along. Two pictures stand out clearly before 
tne, — that of the slaves just freed, and the negroes 
of the present time. It is not easy to believe they 
are the same, unless one has carefully watched the 
progress of the race. 

I can say nothing of this progress ; that is a history 
by itself. I can only speak of the first decade after 
emancipation, as I saAV it. That was in the begin- 
ning. The order then was, " March on ! " It is the 
same to-day. 

Taking the analogy of field-work, which we often 
used with our pupils to illustrate the course of their 
education : the land must first be cleaned up ; old 
stalks and weeds must be chopped down and burned; 
then come hoeing and ploughing and digging, before 
planting. When the seed is in the ground, it requires 
patience to wait for its growth, and constant watch- 
fulness and care to keep out the weeds ; the richer 
the soil, the more vigorous the growth of weeds. 



282 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Such were the similes we used in those first days, 
and they do not inaptly typify the lives of the freed 
people. 

My experiences are but one leaf in the history of 
emancipation. Every line is written with profound 
respect for the negro race. * There is nothing in the 
history of the world which, in portentous magnitude, 
can compare with the progress of events since " free- 
dom was declared." To-day the African race stands 
side by side with us, — independent citizens, asking 
only for rights and privileges and opportunities 
which are " God's providences." 

Just twenty years from the time I attended the 
emancipation jubilee in Charleston, I was present at 
another New Year's celebration gotten up by the col- 
ored people of Beaufort. They had erected a stand, 
in front of which was an arch of evergreens ; over 
the centre was a portrait of Lincoln, and at each cor- 
ner portraits of Grant and Garfield. 

These are some of the signs which mark the prog- 
ress of the freed people. Watching their military 
movements, and listening to their good speakers, it 
was not easy to realize that only two decades had 
passed since they were in slavery. 

When freedom was first declared it took a long 
time for the good news to spread and be believed. In 
1864 the country people were many of them just 
awakening to the fact that slavery was dead, and they 
had little faith that freedom would last. 

'^How far can the negroes go in education?" is 
often asked. That depends upon time and circum- 



PROGRESS 283 

stances, to say nothing of previous conditions. The 
children learn readily and memorize quickly. Then 
the lack of habits of application bars the way. What 
is learned in school is repeated at home, and so the 
whole is leavened. In this way the family is in- 
structed and advanced, while the progress of the 
child is retarded. He hears only the plantation dia- 
lect, and becomes familiar with the plantation super- 
stitions. 

The scholars would write correctly from dictation ; 
— their eyes and ears were seldom at fault ; — but 
when writing by themselves they made sad havoc 
with the English language. 

For instance ; one of our most satisfactory pupils 
left school, and was married ; but he was anxious to 
keep up his studies, so he wrote me, " If you have any 
spear books such as I shall name, which is dictionary, 
United States History, to lone, gave, or sole me." 
He got his books, w^hich we gave him with a bit of 
advice about writing. We recalled what Raph said, 
''A slip of the tongue am noiault of the brain." 

To know how to apply what they learn is the 
secret to be gained. 

General S. C. Armstrong said in one of his re- 
ports, — 

'' The negro is more successful in getting knowledge than in 
using it. To him, as to all, knowledge comes easily, but wisdom 
slowly. Knowledge is power only as it is digested and assimilated. 
His mental digestion is weak. The education of the American 
negro is, I think, dealing with the most responsible, responsive, 
and satisfactory student material to be found among the less 
favored races of this or any land.'^ 



284 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

All the freed people have not improved, but most 
have, and no one stands still. 

One of the first colored soldiers ever brought 
under my care was a middle-aged light man from 
New Orleans. He was sad and hopeless. The whole 
burden of his talk was, " I never had a chance. O 
lady, I wanted to learn, but I never had a chance. 
Too late now ; too late. / never had a chanced 
This he repeated over and over again. 

Regularity, 

Irregularity is one of the greatest faults of the 
negroes. I wish I could say that this habit was con- 
fined to the black people of the South. They have 
never yet learned that '' time and tide wait for no 
man." Perhaps our white friends consider this an- 
other '^ Yankee notion." 

At one time I engaged one of the oldest boys from 
the first class to assist in school. He was to ring the 
bell, put the house in order, and make himself gener- 
ally useful. He was proud over this appointment, 
besides, it gave him a little pocket-money. 

The first day he came all right, according to direc- 
tion ; the second he went ''to vote," and was absent 
all day ; the third day he rang the bell an hour 
too early ; on the fourth we waited in vain to hear 
the bell, then sent some one to ring it and open 
the house. He came an hour and a half after time. 
At first I excused him, knowing he had neither clock 
nor watch to guide him ; but there was always a 
clock by the kitchen door not far away which he 
could consult. 



PROGRESS 285 

Finally, I gave him up. He was too dilatory. 
Then two gi]is begged me to give them the place. 
They were always on time, but I am not at all sure 
that my good old cook did not hang out a signal for 
them. I am certain they were at her pantry door 
when we sat down at breakfast. The schoolroom 
was always clean and in excellent order when we 
arrived. Upon hearing our commendations the boy 
sneered at the girls, saying it took two of them to do , 
the work he had done. 

We took one of these girls to drill a number of 
tiny creatures called the infantry class. Her method 
was amusing. She would say, '' How much eyes you 
got? How much nose you got? Now count for 
me till twenty. Morris, you knock Betty? Oh, 
what a bad boy you is ! " The little ones would 
listen with as profound attention as if she were the 
wisest teacher in the land. 

Our hopes for the future of this race must lie in 
the children born in freedom. They are like a new 
race, unknown before. 

The incidents I have narrrated show the condition 
of the slaves when emancipated ; ^^but, as the negro 
boy said to General Howard when asked what report 
he should take to their Northern friends, — 

''Massa, tell 'em we is risin'," he said, and rising 
they surely are. The march is slow and over a zig- 
zag path. As when we go up a mountain our way \ 
ascends and descends, so these people go up and 
down in their progress towards civilization ; but they 
invariably go up more than down. 



286 FIRST DAYS WITH THE CONTRABANDS 

Let us see where the negro race stands in 1892. 

The following facts, carefully collected by Rev. 
Dr. Beard, Secretary of the American Missionary 
Association, speak for themselves. 

"" Twenty-seven years ago forbidden to read by law, without a 
school; to-day with 25,530 schools! Then not a child in school, 
in all the families of 4,000,000! Now 2,250,000 have learned - 
read, and most of them to write; while, according to the census 
1890, there are in the Afro-American schools 238,229 pupils, the 
increase in attendance the last ten years being more than 62|- per 
cent. Twenty-seven years ago a negro school-teacher would have 
been a curiosity; to-day, by the grace of God, and by the grit of 
their own manhood, 20,000 Afro-Americans are teaching school. 
Twenty-seven years ago it was thought that the colored man was 
incapable of higher education; to-day there are 66 academies and 
high-schools presided over and taught by colored teachers. To-day 
there are 150 schools for advanced education for the training o^ 
Afro-American pupils. Among these are seven colleges admini^ 
tered by colored presidents and faculties, and three of these college 
presidents were formerly slaves. 

'* While by the Southern States alone $50,000,000 have been raise 
for the purpose of Afro-American education, the great bulk of tl 
teachers of higher education have come from the institution 
maintained by the funds from the North. 

*' Asto the learned professions, there are 1,000 college-bred negn 
ministers in the land. Twenty-seven years ago there were twc 
newspapers edited by colored men; now there are 154. In 1805 
there were two negro attorneys; there are now 250. Twenty-seven 
years ago there were three colored physicians; now there are 749. 
Two hundred and forty-seven colored students are to-day in the 
universities of Europe." 



THE END 



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WOOD NOTES WILD 

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and a charming one, is devoted to " Hen-Music." Over fifty varieties of 
birds were closely watched and listened to by Mr. Cheney, and their 
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task permitted. The conclusion is reached that the music of the birds is 
similar to our own, though many of their rhythmical and melodic per- 
formances are difficult to follow and impossible to commit to paper. — 
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THE GOLDEN GUESS 

A series of Essays By JOHN VANCE CHENEY, Librarian of San 
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The author in this series of essays shows what are the essentials of 
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leading poets by it. The following are the titles of the essays : The Old 
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it becomes smooth again, and a smile of approval wreaths her face as 
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while he writes with a sharp pen and spares not the failings and bad 
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